iGEM 2010: Midway

All the talks are over for this year's iGEM, with the final poster session to go and then the annual marathon judge's meeting.  Alas, there is no chromo-poo this year, but there is one team running around in wonderful light-blue leisure suits.  There are from Paris, I think.

I have been very impressed with the sophistication of the component and device design this year.  More on this after the finals tomorrow.

Of general note, Uni Freiburg Bioware biobricked a bunch of parts for packaging up therapeutics in adeno-associated viruses (AAVs).  They showed targeting toward specific cancer cell lines, and also showed the means to build various adapters to target any number of cell-specific markers. There is a very nice 150 pg manual describing protocols for design and use of the AAVs for delivering genes and pro-drugs, with an emphasis on personalized medicine.  All the sequences are online, and even if you can't get the parts from the Registry of Standard Biological parts you can have Blue Heron or somebody else synthesize them for you.  In other words, it appears that Uni Freiburg has enabled DIY Garage Therapeutics.  Got cancer?  Now you've got a personalized therapy.

This is not to say that every Tom, Dick, and Andrew Hessel will be able to generate a personalized cancer therapy on the first try.  But it steps like this gives people an opportunity to fail in a new way, which is a prerequisite to, and always precedes, success.  Failure is the first, and most important component of innovation.

And people will fail -- I am not entirely comfortable with the thought of people attempting their own therapies at home.  But I do think it is inevitable, and I don't think there is any way to stop it. That is the world we live in.