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Harvard’s Wyss Institute Announces International Competition on Biomolecular Nanotechnology

Undergraduate student teams will devise and execute projects that could lead to viable solutions to real-world challenges

BOSTON — The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University today announced the creation and launch of BIOMOD, a biomolecular design competition for undergraduate students around the world.

Student teams will be asked to devise projects in which biological molecules are engineered to assemble themselves into nanoscale structures, systems, or machines that can be programmed to perform useful scientific or technological tasks that could help address real-world challenges.

For instance, programmable nanoscale devices might be designed that target drug delivery to specific cell types in such a way as to reduce side effects when compared to traditional non-specific therapies. Other devices could guide the assembly of novel electronic circuits that are more energy efficient and have smaller features.

BIOMOD is the first student competition launched by the Wyss Institute, which operates as an alliance among premier academic and clinical institutions in the Greater Boston area, bringing together world-renowned scientists, engineers, and clinicians to explore the design principles used in nature and apply these insights to engineer new materials and devices for medicine, industry, and the environment.

“At the Wyss Institute, we believe that Biologically Inspired Engineering is the next technology wave, and Nanobiotechnology is central to this field. So it’s very exciting to launch an event like BIOMOD that will help introduce the next generation of scientists and engineers to this new and exciting arena for innovation and exploration,” said Wyss Founding Director, Donald E. Ingber, M.D., Ph.D.

Registration will be open from February 1 to March 31, 2011, at Student teams must have at least one faculty advisor, and mentors, such as graduate or postdoctoral students, are highly recommended.

The project scope and planning should take place in the spring so that the student teams can dedicate themselves to project execution over the summer. The teams are encouraged to take advantage of existing open-source biomolecular design software, DNA and protein nanostructure components, and molecular fabrication processes.

The completed projects will be presented at the BIOMOD Jamboree on November 5, 2011, at the Wyss Institute facility in the center of Boston’s Longwood Medical Area. They will be judged on their ability to meet basic technical benchmarks, such as complexity and speed of self-assembly, integration of different components to produce new functionality, and efficiency and interoperability of the design process–as well as on their potential to advance enabling technologies, such as experimental methods and software.

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