hack life 2019

Hack Life is Harvard iGEM's premier biohackathon, now in its third year. This event is meant to be open to people from all disciplines, regardless of experience with biology. Teams should ideally have a diverse profile of members, as this event will challenge your creativity. Please make sure you will be available during the weekend of June 28 - June 30. Food will be provided throughout the event (lunch/dinner Sat/Sun). 


You may choose to work with up to 4 other people. Make sure everyone on your team puts the names of all the people they wish to work with on the registration form. You may also choose to register by yourself, in which case, you will be added to a team. 


Although we don't expect a full product, the best teams will create some type of prototype (digitally or 3D). For example, teams using scientific or engineering approaches should include in their presentation a diagram of the constructs, organisms, and methods they might use. 


The prompt for this year's BioHackathon can be found on this page. We believe that any team will be able to come up with a unique, meaningful pitch, so don't worry too much about whether you have enough "experience" or "expertise" in biology/CS/engineering. 


Teams taking a social sciences approach should include diagrams, graphics, charts, or a 3D model (if applicable). However, they may digitally render it if they do not have the necessary materials available.


Projects are not restricted to STEM approaches. Students from any academic background are encouraged to participate in the BioHackathon. Project pitches will then be presented to the track judges in lecture/presentation format on June 30. 


Project pitches will be judged based on creativity, presentation/delivery, scientific foundation, and market potential (as applies). Further questions during the BioHackathon may be directed to



Kevin grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent his free time playing basketball and badminton with his friends. During graduate school, he worked with Robert Tjian at UC Berkeley where he developed a method to detect novel protein-DNA interactions. He used this technique to identify RNA binding proteins that help regulate histone gene expression. Kevin is now focused on developing methods to efficiently isolate bacterial DNA from blood samples. He hopes his work will contribute to improving bacteremic patient outcomes and dampening the rampant overuse of antibiotics.

Dr. Viswanathan is a founding scientist and Director of Research at Visterra, Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company. As a founding scientist, he helped establish the Hierotope™ platform at Visterra that has led to discovery and development of multiple therapeutics. He is an inventor of VIS410, an anti-influenza A antibody currently in phase II clinical trials and VIS513, a cross-serotype neutralizing antibody against dengue that is in pre-clinical development. Prior to Visterra, Dr. Viswanathan was postdoctoral researcher at MIT. Dr. Viswanathan received his B. Tech from Indian Institute of Technology and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Viswanathan is an inventor on over 20 patent and patent applications and has authored over 35 publications in top tiered journals including Science, Cell, New England journal of Medicine and Nature Biotechnology.

Jie Zhu is a biologist and foodie interested in food substitutes and biotechnology. She works with engineers and scientists to explore the secret of food ingredients and fasten the biology engineering. During her PhD at UC Riverside, she worked on metabolic engineering of yeast for aromatic esters production. After graduation, she did a summer internship at Amyris. She is currently Organism Engineer at Ginkgo Bioworks, an organism design company for customers across multiple markets.


Jia Liu, Ph.D.

Harvard SEAS

Assistant Prof. of Bioengineering

Dr. Jia Liu obtained his Ph.D., along with a short postdoctoral stay, with Prof. Charles M. Lieber at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University in 2014. He then performed his postdoctoral research on genetically-targeted bioelectronics and brain interface at Stanford University in 2015. Dr. Liu joined Harvard University as Assistant Professor in Bioengineering since 2019.

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Kevin Tsui, Ph.D.

Day Zero Diagnostics

Senior Research Scientist

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Karthik Viswanathan, Ph.D.

Visterra Inc.

Director of Research

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Jie Zhu, Ph.D.

Ginkgo Bioworks

Organism Engineer

Additional Sponsors and Acknowledgements 

Hack Life is made possible by Harvard SEAS and Harvard Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Office!

We would like to thank Neel Joshi, Jessa Piaia, Rachel DeLucas, and Keith Karasek at SEAS for helping iGEM host the BioHackathon.

We'd also like to extend special thanks to Greg Llacer, Chris Kabacinski, and Chris Li at URAF for allowing us to hold our BioHackathon in the heart of the summer undergraduate Research Village at Harvard College.

Thanks also to our awesome iGEM board and club members who have made this idea into reality! 


Day Zero Diagnostics

Day Zero Diagnostics is developing rapid, whole genome sequencing-based diagnostics to modernize infectious disease diagnosis and treatment. They are generously sponsoring the $500 Day Zero Dx Grand Prize for this BioHackathon.

Ginkgo Bioworks

Ginkgo's designs custom microbes for customers across multiple markets. They build their foundries to scale the process of organism engineering using software and hardware automation. Organism engineers at Ginkgo learn from nature to develop new organisms that replace technology with biology.

Visterra Inc.

Visterra Inc. is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on applying its novel Hierotope platform to identify unique disease targets and to design and engineer precision antibody-based biological medicines against such targets that are not adequately addressed with conventional approaches.