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University of Edinburgh students win the runner-up prize at the Biodesign Challenge in New York

11th July 2017

University of Edinburgh students win the runner-up prize at the international Biodesign Challenge at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York

Biodesign Students with Runner Up Prize

On June 23rd University of Edinburgh students Eva Auer, Sean Greaves and Joe Revans showcased their project "UK2019" at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, winning the runner-up prize in the international Biodesign Challenge (BDC).

"UK 2029: Post-Natural Artefacts from the United Kingdom" discusses potential social and political responses to broadening access to DIY Biology. "Told through three speculative case studies, our project explores how communities present within the UK today could navigate the increased accessibility of synthetic biology, and reflects the way emerging technologies are often used as tools to empower, disrupt or protect," described the students.

The project was developed in an interdisciplinary course initiative led by Dr Naomi Nakayama from the School of Biological Sciences (SBS) and Dr Larissa Pschetz from the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), with the support of Eric Thorand, Anais Moisy and Bettina Nissen, a PhD student and research assistances from SBS and ECA, and ASCUS public bioart lab at Summerhall. 24 students from areas, such as biology, biomedical sciences, product design, and design informatics, developed 7 biodesign projects as part of this initiative in 2017. "We hope that this success story will encourage more students to join our newly approved Biodesign course next year" says Pschetz.

The Biodesign Challenge ( is a university competition that envisions new ways to integrate living systems and biotechnology in design. The team was chosen as a representative to compete with 22 schools and universities from seven countries around the world. Each school featured scientific mentors, many of who are leading systems and synthetic biologists, such as Paul Freemont (Imperial College) and Michael Elowitz (Caltech).

UK2029 was presented to an audience of 200 curators, artists, designers, scientists, and more on. The project was on display at a gallery show at School of Visual Arts in New York City until June 25th.

"It was fascinating seeing controversial bodies such as Intrexon and the FBI in the same room as speculative designer Anthony Dunne and artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg. It was also great to see how other schools responded to the open brief of the competition and what conversations they had engaged with," reflect the students. "Biodesign took full advantage of the cross disciplinary potential offered by Edinburgh College of Art being part of the University of Edinburgh," and "we feel so much more confident in our ability to work in multi-disciplinary environments."