Event Report: BioHack – the Brazilian Synthetic Biology Hackathon & After iGEM Reception in São Carlos

Aug 09, 2018

Written by Guilherme E. Kundlatsch

By the end of the 18th century, explorers had started to open a pathway from São Paulo to the gold mines hidden in the countryside. If you follow this centennial road today, you will find a different precious metal: knowledge. Between the hills crossed by the bandeirantes (the controversial fortune hunters that penetrated the interior of Brazil far beyond the original boundaries), you will find São Carlos, the “Brazilian Athens” or “The capital of technology in Brazil”. This charming city received from 26th July to 1st August the 4th National Gathering of Brazilian Biotechnology Students (Núcleo 18), an exciting conference with attendees from North to South of the Latin America Giant discussing politics, entrepreneurship and the future of the field.

 

Dreamers from the four corners of the country joined this exciting
educational experience

The Brazilian After iGEM Community in partnership with LiNA-Biotec (National League of Biotechnology  Students in Brazil) developed, organized and co-hosted Biohack, a Synthetic Biology Hackathon, during the conference. Enthusiasts without any previous background composed teams from all regions of the country, facing the challenge of learning the basic concepts and developing a feasible technology in a short period. To provide the tools for a successful experience, the event started two weeks before the first participants arrived in São Carlos. An online phase was performed, introducing SynBio for all the newcomers through dynamic, accessible and open-source materials produced by the Brazilian community. Every group received an After iGEMer as a mentor and during the two days of the competition each one created a business plan, a genetic circuit and a pitch describing the project. A judging panel composed by After iGEMers from academia and industry evaluated the solutions based on technical viability, commercial feasibility and impact on the world. Inspiring ideas included a new bacterial process to degrade antidepressants in wastewater treatment plants, optimised strains for the industrial production of aromatic compounds and a device to purify any source of water – on Earth and beyond. In the end, the Dep Monitor, a new biological test for major depression, emerged victorious. The explorers that passed through São Carlos two hundred years ago moved on to explore new unknown regions, expanding a still unborn country. The visitors that joined the competition will now move back to their regions, broadening the frontiers of the Brazilian Synthetic Biology.

 

 The enthusiasts that joined the competition received the guidance from After iGEMers to go from brainstorming to a business plan. The judging committee was delighted with the exciting and promising projects. The seed of Synthetic Biology was launched across the country. Photos by Marcelo de Souza.

 

Featuring discussions from the steps to engineer a dragon to the bottlenecks for innovation in Brazil, the After iGEM Workshop was an outstanding opportunity to connect with local stakeholders. Photo by Marcelo de Souza.

However, it was necessary to live up to the nickname “Brazilian Athens”. Considering that the Greek counterpart made history as home of memorable public debates on Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, there was no better venue for the first After iGEM Reception in Brazil. The event was an opportunity to hear from and engage with the Brazilian After iGEM Community. It was divided in a public workshop and a private roundtable. During the After iGEM Workshop, the biotechnology students from around the country had the opportunity to learn from the local After iGEMers encouraging stories, to brainstorm about the pathway for innovation in the region and to connect with key stakeholders. In the exclusive section, the After iGEMers had the opportunity to propose projects to expand Synthetic Biology in Brazil, to combine efforts in a national level and to provide their insights about After iGEM in a global scale. This remarkable meeting was the cornerstone of a society for the progress of Synthetic Biology in Brazil. The Brazilian After iGEM Community leaves São Carlos broader, united and inspired.

 

The teams received the final awards during the closing ceremony of Núcleo 18. The Brazilian After iGEM Community would like to thank LiNA Biotec for this outstanding opportunity and is looking forward for other partnerships in the future. Photo by LiNA Biotec.

 

We would like to thank the mentors, judges and participants for sharing this marvelous experience. 

Awani Jö! ("We are building together" in the native Iorubá language).

Photo by LiNA Biotec.

 


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