Early last month, associate editor Alla Katsnelson traveled to a remarkable event at MIT. She watched as 59 teams of undergraduates from around the world spent two days using the tools of synthetic biology to build impressive machines. (See Alla's blogs on the subject here.) They were there to take part in a jamboree that marks the culmination of iGEM, the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition.

The team from Peking University won for creating a division of labor among bacteria to express fluorescent proteins in an alternating sequence. Other winners: A crew from Berkeley, Calif., engineered an artificial blood substitute called bactoblood. One group from Paris developed a technique to create the first multicellular synthetic bacterium. Peking's team created a...

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