OSTON — If there is one point of agreement among the 300 teams from 42 countries that participated in this year’s synthetic biology Olympics in Boston, it is probably this: The microbes that nature made are a good starting point, but we can do better.

Begun as an independent study course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003, the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines) Jamboree is now a global competition that culminates a year or more of experiments by teams of high schoolers, undergraduates, and graduate students aimed at producing such “machines.”

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