Covering iGEM is hard: choosing presentations based on what sounds cool won?t get you very far, because almost everything sounds cool. Who would say no to a microbial mass production system for blood (Berkeley) or RNAi components strung together to create a way to cure cancer (Princeton)? But with most of the projects so conceptually ambitious, one of the judges told me, sifting through them really requires squaring what was originally planned with what got accomplished. Ten or so groups have made chemical sensors, for example, but there's a huge range in how well they built their systems, said James Brown, who is mentoring the Cambridge University group this year. He pointed me to MIT's mercury sensor, which also acts as a filter that can clean contaminated water. They used induction with AHL, a quorum-sensing molecule often used in biosensors, to activate two constructs, one of which reports mercury while...

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