SynBio 4.0; Bringing together the future of biology
by Claire Murphy, Research collaborator
Synthetic biology is arguably one of the fastest growing technology sectors in the world, and Canada is no exception. Located at the University of Waterloo, the Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research is working hard within the discipline, and was part of a team to bring together the widespread community this past May with through hosting of fourth ever Synthetic Biology conference in Canada, “SynBio 4.0”.
Being one of the few conferences of its nature, SynBio 4.0 had something for everyone invested in the synthetic biology community. With the first day catering more towards fresh-faced undergraduates, the venue hosted workshops on kinetic modelling, protein engineering, genetic circuit design and strain optimization, as well as education and industry panels. It succeeded in introducing those with a passion and little knowledge to the weird and wonderful world of synthetic biology. The next two days were geared towards the more experienced crowd; faculty and graduate students. As dozens of slides and posters were being presented with the possibility of a prize to be won, scholars and companies from across Canada flocked to the conference to demonstrate their research and products. With keynote addresses from Bettina Hamelin, the CEO of Ontario Genomics, and Ned Budisa, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Synthetic Biology, the conference was not to be missed for those in the community.
SynBio 4.0 was not only a demonstration of Canada’s best researchers, but also of the rapidly growing synthetic biology community being fostered there. As Canada heads into an agricultural boom due to the legalization of cannabis, companies are investing more and more into synthetic biology as a way to gain an edge over competitors. This was evident in SynBio 4.0, with companies from across Ontario appearing in panels and presentations. Furthermore, a much larger undergraduate presence was felt this year, indicating a growing interest amongst young Canadians. One undergraduate present, Maxim Kirby, a Biochemistry major, said “... I learned a lot about networking and found a new passion [in synthetic biology].” in reference to the event.
SynBio 4.0 proved that interest in synthetic biology is skyrocketing. With the formation of SynBio Canada still fresh in mind, the synthetic biology community is riding this wave of new interest, as even biology powerhouses such as Ontario Genomics has shown keen interest in this space. Watch this space for information of next year’s event, SynBio 5.0. The synthetic biology community here in Waterloo is keen to continue to be a part of the community.