Competition/New

What's New for 2020?

On this page you will find: 1. Changes to Judging, 2. New iGEM Activities Starting Now, 3. Virtual Giant Jamboree, 4. Changes to Registration, 5. Two-Phase Projects, 6. New Video Deliverables, 7. Safety and Human Practices and COVID-19, and 8. New Resources.


If you have participated in the iGEM Competition before, you'll know that there are a lot of things to keep track of. However, this is not a normal year. Together, we are facing the biggest pandemic in the past 100 years. Based on your feedback, we are adapting the iGEM experience - we have examined each part of the competition to make it even better this year.

We have created this page to help teams track what is new in the 2020 Competition. This is iGEM in the time of a pandemic. It will be different but it will be worth it.

Welcome Booklet

Ready to start the 2020 iGEM season? We have prepared this welcome booklet with key information for navigating 2020 and special messages from our Committees and Sponsors.

1. Changes to Judging

Given the impact that the global pandemic is having on teams, judging criteria will be updated to be appropriate for this year. The efforts of 2020 teams will be fairly evaluated, awarded, and celebrated!

  • You can fully participate in iGEM 2020 even if you have limited or no access to your lab this season
  • Medals will celebrate and reflect the same level of project quality as in previous years, but the ways that teams can achieve those medals will be much more flexible and open this year
    • We are excited to announce that lab work will not be required to achieve a medal this year
  • New special prizes will be added to acknowledge and reward the effort teams are putting into their projects

Details about the Medal Criteria are now available!

2. New iGEM Activities Starting Now

We are launching new communication initiatives and activities so that iGEM teams stay well connected and have fun.

  • Coffee Hour with Ambassadors- join a call and voice your suggestions! The next round of calls start Thursday, April 23. Learn more.
  • Work-at-home Support - Ambassadors are sharing their pro-Zoom rooms to use in your iGEM meetings and events.
  • Virtual team meetups - Already happening in many regions. We will provide extra support for hosting meetups this year.
  • Collaborations Page - Post about your collaboration request, or find a collaboration to participate in! Learn more.
  • Global iGEM Slack Workspace - Join the iGEM community on Slack for collaboration and discussions. Learn more.
  • Workshops & Online Sessions with iGEM Committees and Training Webinars by iGEM Partners
  • Team Building & Fun Activities with Ambassadors and iGEM Alumni

These activities will be listed on the new iGEM Event Calendar:

3. Virtual Giant Jamboree

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for iGEM this year. Global travel and large meetings are a major risk factor to spread. To prioritize the health and safety of our community, we will host the Giant Jamboree virtually this year.

We dedicate a lot of effort to planning the live Giant Jamboree in Boston. We are directing the same effort to planning a high quality Virtual Event! iGEM teams can still expect an exciting and unique experience: submit your presentation video and wiki, chat with your judges, interact during poster sessions and Q&A, and get together with neighbor teams at an awards ceremony "watch party" in your area! Click below to learn more:

4. Changes to Registration

Some fees are staying the same, and some fees are changing for iGEM 2020.

  • The team regular registration fee will remain at $5500 until May 15. If you have trouble submitting payment by May 15, please contact iGEM HQ as soon as possible to make arrangements.
  • The Jamboree will now be charged on a per team basis, rather than per attendee.
    The Virtual Giant Jamboree fee will be $2500 per team, inclusive of all members of the team.
  • Teams can now elect to submit their Jamboree fee with their team registration fee.
  • Cancellation requests must be received in writing to hq [AT] igem [DOT] org by May 15, 11:59 PM EDT. You may choose to either apply the full amount you have paid to your 2021 Team Registration Fee or receive a refund.

5. Two-Phase Projects

We are engineering biology. Much like in an engineering project, a design phase is crucial to your projects. In 2020, we want to give the design phase the attention it deserves. For the first time ever, we are officially bringing the option of Two-Phase Projects to the iGEM Competition. Your project can be divided in 2 phases, and work can be distributed across two years.

  • PHASE I - Design and Model. Teams completing Phase I celebrate their work at the 2020 Virtual Giant Jamboree. You will compete for medals and awards, and get critical feedback from judges to bring to Phase II.
  • PHASE II - Build and Test. Teams that opt for Two-Phase projects will benefit from a multi-year discount when registering for iGEM 2021. More details will be provided in 2021.

6. New Video Deliverables

Many of you already impress us with your team videos every year! This year, there are two new video deliverables for the competition:

  1. Project Promotion Video: a two-minute video summarizing the challenge your project focuses on, the solution you want to provide, its impact, and an introduction to your team.
  2. Team Presentation Video: your 20-minute presentation, submitted ahead of the Jamboree.

The new Video & Remote Technology Committee will be supporting teams with guidelines, tools, tech advice, tutorials and more.

7. Safety and Human Practices, and COVID-19

As we face a global challenge and learn to work together in new ways considering how “your work affects the world and the world affects your work” through your Human Practice efforts is more important than ever. Some teams may want to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic using the tools of synthetic biology. Regardless of your project choice, all teams must follow these new Safety Policies:

  • No team should plan to work with the live or isolated SARS-CoV-2 virus, or any environmental, animal, or human samples likely to contain it.
  • Any activities connected to diagnostics, therapeutics or vaccines for COVID-19, as well as the planned use of any fragments of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, are NOT covered by iGEM's White List and you MUST submit a check in form to get permission for this work in advance.
  • Teams must follow ALL guidance from their governments and local health care experts about in-person interactions, whether between team members or with others in the community.

Click the button below to see the full announcement:

8. New Resources

There are still plenty of ways to push the boundaries of synthetic biology with no or limited access to a lab this year.

Check out our new resources page for inspiration on how to do iGEM in The Time of Pandemic:

  • Examples of different project styles
  • Sponsorship offers, free tools and other project resources
  • External collaborations with the open-science community via Just One Giant Lab (JOGL).
  • Entrepreneurship Program (EPIC) offers guidance in: team building, leadership, project management, and challenge ideation.