Undergraduate Synthetic-Biology Contest Mixes Fun With Serious Warnings

Undergraduate Competition Illuminates Promises and Perils of Synthetic Biology 1

Kelvin Ma for The Chronicle

Angela Chen describes the project submitted by her team, from the U. of Illinois, in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition.

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close Undergraduate Competition Illuminates Promises and Perils of Synthetic Biology 1

Kelvin Ma for The Chronicle

Angela Chen describes the project submitted by her team, from the U. of Illinois, in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition.

For a passing moment, a very dark thought occurred to Leung Wai Tak.

A student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, he and some of his classmates were competing in the world's premier undergraduate competition in synthetic biology. They came up with a clever, if evil, idea: Create a type of bacteria that when activated by the temperatures inside a human body would unleash a programmed rampage of cellular destruction.

"We really thought of something really kind of