Africa is a unique ecosystem when it comes to Synthetic Biology, one that I’ve been closely following and actively participating in for the past 3 years. iGEM is so deeply embedded in this ecosystem, I’ve often viewed it as one of the major driving forces of the current movement towards the advancement of SynBio. Through monitoring and participating in team progress, I’ve come to believe that the iGEM 2019 season promises to be one of the biggest for African iGEM teams. Being around the teams during their planning phases, I can certainly tell you that a lot of great things are coming. The season started with some funding insecurities for Africa, however, that didn’t stop two Egyptian teams from registering independently for the first time in iGEM history. I’m thrilled to report that AFCM-Egypt is participating for the third time in a row with a bigger than ever human practices agenda and bright project idea. Also, marvelous achievements are underway as CU-iGEM has already won two major sponsorships, Opentrons and Promega, congratulations, CU! Media coverage is also on the rise with increasing interest in following iGEM teams throughout their journeys with both teams giving TV interviews within the past month.
Back in April, AfteriGEM hosted the first Egyptian iGEM meetup (iGEM on the Nile) which brought together iGEMers, AfteriGEMers and SynBio enthusiasts on a cruise down the Nile river. It was an amazing event where we could finally see the Egyptian SynBio community coming together.
We had talks from AfteriGEMers, industry professionals and academics who have been closely working with iGEM teams. We also had talks from PR representatives and hosts aimed at young iGEMers regarding how to break the ice with their communities and present their projects. Information sessions at universities such as MSA University, Faculty of Biotechnology were one of the activities I enjoyed the most and it seemed to spike interest in SynBio and the competition which promises an even bigger participation in 2020.
On a different note, attention to SynBio isn’t just rising on the collegiate level, it is also increasing on the policy-maker/stakeholder front. This year saw the first ever Gene editing: Priorities for Egypt workshop organized by Egypt’s own Academy for Scientific Research and Technology. The event was productive, and it was amazing seeing iGEMers attending and jump-starting Egypt’s dialogue regarding Gene Editing.
I’m also incredibly excited to be partaking in the Youth Empowerment in Science event organized by Biokmt on Saturday 13th of July. Non-profit organizations such as Biokmt are playing a major role towards encouraging students in participating in STEM research and connecting researchers around the continent with people who share their passion towards science and innovation. Various conferences are coming up as well such as Bioteam’s Biotech Congress and EgyHealth: advances in Laboratory medicine, where I’ll be representing iGEM and AfteriGEM and available for any questions or inquiries.
The season is also full of other events and activities that are under preparation and aimed at connecting iGEMers and AfteriGEMers as well as introducing potential iGEMers to the world of SynBio and its endless possibilities.