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Leiden students win grand prize at iGEM international biology competition

The Leiden iGEM team has won the grand prize at the iGEM international biology competition. The students won a further five prizes, including those for best diagnostics tracks and best inclusion. ‘We still can’t believe it. It feels almost surreal,’ team member Amber Schonk said yesterday to University weekly Mare.

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Winning via a video link

The iGEM final, also known as the Giant Jamboree, usually takes place in MIT’s hometown of Boston, but that was before coronavirus. The 14 iGEM students from Leiden watched the final via a video link instead. ‘We already knew since last Thursday that we were competing for the Grand Prize,’ said biomedical sciences student Amber Schonk in Mare. That was what we all hoped to win most. But we also wanted the prize in the diagnostics category, and we did!’ Schonk said the following to Leidsch Dagblad ‘We celebrated big style on Sunday evening, but not into the early hours because we’d come down from our adrenaline rush by around midnight.’

And the winner is...

Continuing after iGEM

iGEM Leiden’s win is no mean feat: a total of 250 teams from all around the world took part in the competition. The jury was impressed with the concept that the Leiden students had come up with: Rapidemic, a universal virus test kit (see below). The team doesn’t want to stop at a concept, but wants to go on and develop the invention too. ‘We’re now busy with a new competition, the Gulliver Prize for entrepreneurship,’ said chemistry student Aukje Beers in Mare. ‘We really want to continue with our project beyond iGEM.’


The inclusion prize that the team won had a colourful note to it: they won the prize because their design takes colour blindness into account. Rapidemic uses colours to show whether the result is positive or negative. ‘One of our teammates was doing literature research but was unable to distinguish between the colours in some papers and had to ask the other members for help,’ says the iGEM Leiden website van iGEM Leiden. ‘To include people who are colour-blind, we decided to make our website and experimental output colour-blind friendly.’

In the media


The student team hopes that Rapidemic will be able to detect infectious diseases at an early stage. They want the test kit to offer a defence against dangerous infectious diseases even in the remotest of areas.  It will consist of a mini laboratory in a handy low-cost box that will enable doctors to quickly determine whether a patient has a particular disease. 

iGEM Leiden 2020 won the following prizes: 

  • Grand Prize
  • Gold Medal 
  • Best Diagnostics Track
  • Best Wiki
  • Best Inclusion
  • Best Supporting Entrepreneurship
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