Ambassador Diary, Asia: Chapter 3
For the past couple of months, I have been attending the iGEM meetup and Synthetic Biology (SynBio) symposium in India and Indonesia. Both countries have slightly different circumstances. In terms of the number of emerging iGEM teams, India is indeed growing faster than Indonesia. The All India iGEM Meetup was a two-days-long event hosted by Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal’s 2019 team. There were 11 teams totalling around 90 participants from all parts of the country. Interestingly, the number of collegiate teams participating in iGEM has been rising gradually since the first ever Indian team participated in 2008. Fast forward to 2019, four new teams are preparing for their debut participation this year. The 2019 Indian teams were exhilarated. Many of them were there for the Meetup for the first time. Every team had rehearsed their presentations extensively. They received fruitful feedback from the judges.
On 24th August, iGEM ITB 2019 was hosting the SynBio symposium and the second iGEM alumni meetup in Indonesia. Dr. Azzania Fibriani, a molecular biology analyst in ITB agreed that SynBio in Indonesia is depicted as a seed growing on marginalized area yet growing steadily. Interestingly real research in SynBio started around 2004. There were not many articles published, back then. However, SynBio was indeed a point of attraction for researchers and still continues to be.
Many of the challenges include biosecurity, biohackathon, environmental risk, playing “God” and challenging the natural order of life, and public value. Another perspective of iGEM was delivered by iGEM Alumni from Upsala (Sweden) 2017, Immanuel Sanka who is the COO of Jala Tech (best startup in Indonesia for 2018). He explained how iGEM has been instrumental in his career and currently he got Ph.D Vacancy in of a university in Estonia. Along with Sanka, Dr. Nenny from Biofarma, vaccine state industry in Indonesia, explained that Bioinformatics and Synbio boosted up the vaccine production from 2005 to 2016 steeply. She also mentioned that biologics can provide a highly selective capacity for drug targeting, they will be used increasingly as carriers for cytotoxic payloads (e.g., anti- body drug conjugates). Moreover, therapeutic protein modalities, such as fusion proteins, will be increasingly developed, especially to exploit immunotherapy in the treatment of cancer. On 24th August, iGEM ITB 2019 was hosting the SynBio symposium and the second iGEM alumni meetup in Indonesia. Dr. Azzania Fibriani, a molecular biology analyst in ITB agreed that SynBio in Indonesia is depicted as a seed growing on marginalized area yet growing steadily. Interestingly real research in SynBio started around 2004. There were not many articles published, back then. However, SynBio was indeed a point of attraction for researchers and still continues to be.
Prof. Ocky Radjasa from Ministry of Higher Education Indonesia piqued our interests when he stated that the Indonasian government looks forward to make diligent investments in SynBio research.It is substantiated by the national budgeting for SynBio in several areas such as agriculture, enzyme, and so on.Two Indonesia teams of 2019 (ITB and UI) presented their projects and received great feedback from the alumni.
The Synbio kingdom has been rapidly expanding in the past six years, and so has the iGEM community in China. The evolvement of Conference of Chinese iGEMers’ Community (CCiC) has come to show an edge of the development track.
Six years ago, the very first CCiC was held in Huazhong Agriculture University, as a collaboration of the university team and the three other teams in the same city. The primal name of CCiC was actually Central China iGEM Consortium. Above the expectations of the organizers, 15 teams participated in the event and the feedback was so positive that almost everyone encouraged for it to become an annual event.
Then the “relay baton” passed on to Peking University and Sun Yat-san University, following the format of the 1st CCiC but having a significant increase in the number of attending teams. Since the second year of CCiC, the current full conference title has been applied. Teams gathered together in late summer to practise and rehearse their presentations, as well as to receive feedback on their projects from the peers.
In 2017, the 4th CCiC at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (FAFU) was another turning point. That year, the executive committee of CCiC was formed to reshape the conference program into a more academic-oriented direction. Quite a few young scientists who have done excellent work in synbio related fields were invited to share their research with the iGEMers as well as provide their insights and suggestions as predecessors. Based on this, the 5th CCiC -hosted by Shanghai Tech University- tried to enrich the conference settings by introducing informal workshops on various topics which may help with a particular element in iGEM, and made itself increasingly professional. iGEM HQ representatives participated in both 4th and 5th CCi, to learn more about the individual perspectives, and engage with this fast-growing community.
And thus CCiC was a highly anticipated event in 2019. For four days in the midst of August, 70 Chinese teams came to Shenzhen Institute of Advance Technology to join the 6th CCiC. Except for keeping the emphasis on academia, more disciplines and fields were considerately integrated and welcomed into the conference program. An honorable Professor in Ethics was invited to give a plenary lecture not only on bioethics principles but also gave a historic review on the course of development of biotechnology in the perspective of social scientists. Entrepreneurs of lab automation -both developer and user- shared their experiences of founding startups and their thoughts on the future of new technological development. There was also an interesting demonstration given by a researcher at SIAT on how digital art could help with the science communication of his work. What a diversified synbio event CCiC has become! It’s worth mentioning that the current and previous running members of the executive committee of CCiC are all past iGEMers, who are willing to devote their precious energy, experience and expertise to build and expand the community. They are some of the pioneer practitioners of After iGEM in China!
Wonder why I have been going on and on about CCiC? I have been a participant for the past two CCiCs (2017-2019) and currently serve on the committee! =) Signing off, how do you envision an ideal iGEM/After iGEM community? What kind of resources or elements you’d love to see in your local iGEM community? Share your comments here and join us to make this community more promising than ever!