Meetup RSVP form

Our Mission:

Our mission is to inspire connections between iGEM teams to explore implications of and discuss mammalian synthetic biology. This event will provide fireside talks with mammalian synthetic biologists, opportunities to meet other iGEM teams, and offer a chance to learn about the state of the field. We hope each team walks (or more accurately, Zooms) away having had conversations that spark excitement and offer new perspectives on mammalian synthetic biology.

Motivations behind the meetup:

MIT iGEM traditionally works on mammalian synthetic biology (MSB; using mammalian cell lines and gene parts as opposed to the bacterial or yeast chasses), and as our team learned more about the niche during project ideation, we realized that the majority of iGEM teams did not work this way. Typically, our team helps facilitate a regional meetup [New England GEM (NEGEM)]. Additionally, given this year’s unique virtual format, geographic location was not as important as in the past; we saw an opportunity to reach out to teams from all across the world working in this niche and learn from and support each other.

Building off of previous studies undertaken by UC Davis and Boston University iGEM, we understood that the niche of MSB was one that was a privilege to work in due to access to resources of time and money. This is also accompanied by ethical considerations in increasing accessibility of such life-altering technology. Thus, to address the fact that teams may have not had the same exposure to MSB, we hope that our meetup will spark excitement and demonstrate how promising the field can be. We hope to show attendees the wide range of possibilities and experiences available through talks from scientists in both academia and industry.

Based on feedback from teams through an initial survey to 2020 iGEM PIs gathering what kind of topic-specific meetup or workshops their teams would be interested in, we put together MMM: the MIT Mammalian Meetup.



Time (EDT)

Welcome remarks

9:00 AM - 9:05 AM

Opening speaker
Ron Weiss

Professor Weiss will orient our meet-up to the field of synthetic biology, present a research vignette on creation of organoids using synthetic circuits, and point us toward future mammalian research opportunities. This 25-minute talk will be followed by a 10-minute Q&A session.

9:05 AM - 9:40 AM

Team Introductions

This is a time to introduce your team!
• Where you are from
• What your project is
• Why you are excited about mammalian synthetic biology!

9:40 AM - 10:00 AM

Introductions to short talks

Hear from and ask questions to two MIT students on various perspectives in mammalian synbio: a graduate student and alum postdoc.

10:00 AM - 10:05 AM

Short talk 1

PhD candidate Noreen Wauford, studying sophisticated gene circuits in cell therapies from the Weiss Lab.

10:05 AM - 10:20 AM


5 minutes

10:20 AM - 10:25 AM

Short talk 2

Dr. Pranam Chatterjee, a postdoc in Dr. George Church’s lab at Harvard, speaking on Computation-Mediated Protein Engineering of Genome Editing and Anti-Viral Tools.

10:25 AM - 11 AM

Industry Speakers: Dr. Norville and Dr. Wood, founders of Jura Bio

35 minutes
(25 minutes talk, 10 minutes Q&A)

11:00 AM - 11:35 AM


5 minutes

11:35 AM - 11:40 AM

Industry Speaker: Dr. Verma of BCG

35 minutes
(25 minutes talk, 10 minutes Q&A)

11:40 AM - 12:15 PM

Graphical Abstract Contest Award + Closing Remarks

(5 minutes)

12:15 PM - 12:20 PM


10 minutes

12:20 PM - 12:30 PM

OPTIONAL: After-event social
• Casual chatting
• casual chatting

Come join us for a fun and casual get-together! We’ll be playing biology-themed, solving bio-themed riddles, and having fun chatting about anything iGEM and biology!

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Keynote Speakers:

Prof. Ron Weiss

Prof. Ron Weiss, MIT

Prof. Weiss is one of the pioneers of synthetic biology.  He has been engaged in synthetic biology research since 1996 when he was a graduate student at MIT and where he helped set up a wet-lab in the EECS Department. The Weiss Laboratory seeks to create integrated biological systems capable of autonomously performing useful tasks, and to elucidate the design principles underlying complex phenotypes.

Dr. Julie Norville

Dr. Elizabeth Wood

Dr. Julie Norville & Elizabeth Wood, JURA Bio

Julie Norville and Elizabeth Wood co-founded and co-direct JURA Bio, Inc., an early-stage therapeutics start up focusing on developing and delivering cell-based therapies for the treatment of autoimmune and immune-related neurodegenerative disease.

Julie Norville is a synthetic biologist who trained under George Church, Thomas Knight, and Angela Belcher. She helped perform some of the first demonstrations of CRISPR in eukaryotes (human cells, plants, and yeast) and developing tools for the radical recoding of genomes, and was an early i-Gem contributor.

Elizabeth Wood is a biophysicist with a background in machine learning-driven protein design. She's worked under Adam Cohen, Angela Belcher, and Markus Buehler, designing protein tools for optogenetics, carbon sequestration, and water filtration. She currently helps run the NeurIPS Workshop Learning Meaningful Representations of Life and the Models Inference and Algorithms Seminar at the Broad.

Dr. Malvika Verma

Dr. Malvika Verma, BCG's DeepTech

Dr. Malvika Verma is a Consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), based in the San Francisco office. She joined BCG in 2019 after completing her PhD in Biological Engineering at MIT with Professor Robert Langer. Her research covers biomedical devices, drug delivery, and infectious diseases. Malvika is using her expertise at BCG to advise clients in the social impact, healthcare, and energy sectors. She also works closely with BCG's DeepTech Mission on efforts in synthetic biology.

Inflections on the MIT Mammalian Meetup

The meetup was held on August 27, 2020 online with 80+ iGEM students registering to attend. Teams in attendance included:

American University in Cairo (AUC), Egypt

Armed Forces College of Medicine (AFCM), Egypt

BITS Pilani Goa Campus, India

China Pharmaceutical University (CPU)


Facultad de Ciencias UNAM, Mexico

Federal University of Amazonas, Brasil

Harvard, USA


ISER-Pune, India

King’s College London, UK

Poznań, Poland

Taiwan American School - Taipei

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

University of Melbourne (Unimelb), Australia

University of Rochester (Team UteRus), USA

University of Thessaly, Greece

Prof. Ron Weiss's Talk

We started off with an overview of synthetic biology by Professor Ron Weiss. Each team was then given a few minutes to introduce themselves. This gave everyone the chance to see who else was at the meetup, their proposed project and some time to think of questions during the social.

We then heard from our academic speakers! Noreen Wauford, a PhD candidate in Professor Ron Weiss’s lab, gave us an overview of exciting and sophisticated gene editing techniques and Dr. Pranam Chatterjee, a postdoc in Dr. George Church’s lab at Harvard, who spoke about using computational tools for protein engineering in synthetic biology and how to use these for gene editing and anti-viral tools.

Next, we introduced our industry speakers Dr. Norville and Dr. Wood, founders of Jura Bio. They spoke about their development of a novel therapeutic platform of cell-based therapies against autoimmune diseases as well as advice for students interested in industry. Next, we heard from Dr. Verma of the Boston Consulting Group who also talked about the business and application/development of research.

After this round of talks by experts in their respective fields and backgrounds, we held our award ceremony for “Best Graphical Abstract.” Every team that entered a graphical abstract was given personalized feedback on their poster by the BE communications lab. The winner of the graphical abstract contest was Team American University of Cairo (AUC) from Egypt. Congratulations to AUC Egypt and thank you to all the teams who participated!

After the closing remarks, this was the official end of the MMM, but everyone was invited to an informal game session afterwards. We chatted and played synthetic biology-themed with iGEM members, and after an hour, the MMM was officially concluded

Our team learned a lot on how to create and run an engaging online session, and met people from around the world. We hope that all the participants also learned a lot!

Quotes from the meetup:

"Why would anyone want to program bacteria to solve a maze? Because it's cool." - Ron Weiss

"If you want to change the world, don't be shy about it." - Ron Weiss


This page was written by Rachel Shen, Erin Shin, and Sangita Vasikaran