iGEM as a Catalyst for Tacoma's BioTech Workforce

By David Hirschberg PhD and CEO RAIN 

A major emphasis of the Readiness Acceleration and Innovation Network (RAIN) is to educate and inspire our young scientists. This is the reason we sponsor an iGEM team every year. The International Genetically Engineered Machine organization inspires students and scientists to solve the world’s problems through Synthetic Biology.

Synthetic biology is a field that combines biology and engineering to create new targeted technologies that leverage the incredible power of the living systems around us. iIGEM hosts an annual competition to spread awareness of the versatility of synthetic biology and encourage the personal and scientific growth of students. The iGEM competition is a platform for students to explore their interest in science in a highly collaborative, fun, and exciting atmosphere. As Keshava Katti, a high school student from last year’s iGEM team, states “iGEM was a unique opportunity to explore my interest in bioengineering and support the local community. Participating in RAIN's arsenic biosensing project helped to develop my lab skills and technical expertise.”

 Dr Nguyen discussing the Ars Plasmid with 2018 iGEM team at a Science Saturday Session. 

Dr Nguyen discussing the Ars Plasmid with 2018 iGEM team at a Science Saturday Session. 

In 2017, RAIN had the opportunity to host a talented team of students from our local high schools and colleges, as well as cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. We called our team Cadets2Vets, a reference to our Army sponsorship and the involvement of cadets and veterans. Our team focused on the concern of arsenic in our environment and developed a biosensor to detect arsenic using a paper ticket. The joint effort by RAIN and the Department of Defense led to a successful showing at Giant Jamboree, a 5-day conference in Boston showcasing iGEM teams through oral and poster presentations. Cadets2Vets, a team competing in iGEM for the first time and with students who previously had limited hands-on lab experience, brought home a bronze medal!

The 2018 team is developing a new Biosensor to advance detection of arsenic through chromatophores. I look forward to updating you on our progress in the near future.

RAIN is committed to attracting companies to Tacoma by creating a talent pool of trained bhe BiotTech employees they desire. The students we are training on the iGEM team are such employees of the future and are these students committed to our futurethe betterment of Tacoma and the South Sound region.