The history of our team is quite interesting. We didn't start with iGEM, but at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP13-MOP8-MOP2). On december 2016, we had the opportunity to attend this event as youth delegates of the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI), which, in collaboration with the ISAAA delegation, decided to take an international group of young science students to introduce us to how biotechnology and synthetic biology regulations take place. We sure learned a lot about biodiversity, as well as The Cartagena and Nagoya protocols and their implementation in our countries. However, reality kicked in and turns out that despite all the advantages we can get from this tool, there is a widespread negative perspective on synthetic biology, mainly from activist groups but also from country representatives. Sadly, the problem didn't end there: there was also a big lack of participation from the scientific community and the young people regarding the regulation processes that were taking place. We sat at the real United Nations negotiations and even witnessed the proposal of a moratorium to Synthetic Biology!!!
Considering this situation a problem, with possible negative consequences for the development of emerging technologies, something had to be done. We came back to our homes, inspired, conscious of the importance of effective science communication, and with the conviction to do something to make a change. It was then when we decided to create Youth Biotech, an international association that focuses on science communication, science regulation and science development. Today it's got members from more that 15 different countries who look forward to take the movement to their respective countries. Under the science development track we founded the PHAgave project and we have been carrying out our public engagement activities through this platform since then.
To take science out of the lab and make an impact in our community, we’ve been focusing on hosting and participating in activities and events that share and explain the real implications of the emerging technologies, especially synthetic biology, as well as the importance on developing critical thinking.
During the COP13, we had the opportunity to talk to delegates, learn from their perspectives, the positions of their countries and share with them what we knew about Synthetic Biology and the advantages of the implementation of these technologies. We even got to share our concerns with Mexico’s Environment Minister.
The Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) delegation hosted a side event, in which some of the PHAgave team instructors and advisors explained their previous iGEM projects. We also got the chance to share our thoughts in an article written by one of the team members. It was reviewed by Dr Mahaletchumy Arujanan, major science communicator, and published by the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre in the Petri Dish, Malaysia’s first science newspaper.
We can say that this experience totally shaped the way we see ourselves as biotechnologists. It made us realize the importance of stepping out of the labs and taking part in decision making, because what people are deciding today will affect our future.
Part of the iGEM team at the COP-MOP in Cancún, México. From iGEM team: Santiago Ochoa, Mildred Jiménez, Diana Bonilla, Diana Tamayo and Diana Rábago.
Part of the iGEM team at the COP-MOP in Cancún, México. From iGEM team: Santiago Ochoa, Mildred Jiménez, Diana Bonilla, Diana Tamayo, Diana Rábago. Instructors and advisors: Alex Mayorov, Thomas Dohmen, Ricardo Hernández and Luis García.
Part of the iGEM team at the COP-MOP in Cancún, México. From iGEM team: Santiago Ochoa, Mildred Jiménez, Diana Bonilla, Diana Tamayo, Diana Rábago. Advisors and instructors: Ricardo Hernández and Thomas Dohmen.
Part of the iGEM team at the COP-MOP in an insightful discussion with Mexico’s Environment Minister.
From iGEM team: Eliel Villegas, Mildred Jiménez & Diana Bonilla.
Part of the group at the COP-MOP during the PRRI side event in which some instructors and advisors of the team explained their previous iGEM projects.
From iGEM team: Eliel Villegas
Instructors and advisors: Thomas Dohmen, Daniel Domínguez, Heber Torres, Ricardo Hernández and Saúl Pizarro.
Thomas Dohmen from TU Darmstadt, our team instructor, presenting his iGEM project at the PRRI’s side event during the COP-MOP.
Article published by the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre in the Petri Dish, Malaysia’s first science newspaper. Written by team member Mildred Jiménez on behalf of the Youth-PRRI delegation. Other voices from the floor also includes thoughts on the matter from team member Diana Bonilla.
Being Human 2.0: #SynbioLive
This was the very first event we hosted with a science communication goal. In order to reach the general public and bring science closer to everyone, we organized Being Human 2.0 in collaboration with The Institute for Science on Global Policy “The Forum” and Cornell’s Alliance for Science. We held panels and live sessions with Synthetic Biology experts from USA, England and Mexico, to discuss the applications of this field and its ethical implications. The event was available online and it was seen in 30 different countries. We were honored to count with the participation of Juan Enriquez Cabot from Excel Venture Management, who mainly opened the discussion regarding singularity and how the emerging technologies are changing what it means to be a human.
Some of the experts who also participated in the event were: Michael Hecht from Princeton's Chemistry Department; Richard Kitney from Imperial College London Bioengineering Department; Luis Figueroa and Oscar Aguilar from Jalisco's Center for Research and Assistance in Technology and Design; Luis Ochoa from the Mexican Biosafety Association; Morris Schwarzblat from Jalisco's Secretariat of Innovation and Monserrat Mora from the Startup Biomentum.
Being Human 2.0: SynbioLive event at Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Guadalajara México. Discussion panel included experts from CIATEJ (Jalisco’s Center for Research and Assistance in Technology and Design), AMEXBIO (The Mexican Biosafety Association) and Juan Enriquez Cabot participating via Google Hangouts.
Youth Biotech Head Quarters thanking the panelists for their outstanding participation.
What may have started as “The Latin American version of iGEM”, is an annual event that aims to promote the use of open-source technologies to attend the necessities with social relevance in Latin American. It is an open-non-lucrative organization with representatives from the Academy, Laboratories, FabLabs, Colleges, Hack-labs, DYIBio and NGOs who cooperate to organize the event through the continent.
This year, the second edition of the event TechnoX took place in our home city in Mexico: Guadalajara. We held a workshop on science communication and the importance of critical thinking. Our goal was to make people conscious about how easily information can be manipulated, especially by social media and activist groups. This is a big issue that prevents Synthetic Biology and other technologies to be accepted by the general public because of the fear to the unknown.
Our workshop was held on the same auditorium where Drew Endy, one of iGEM’s founders, gave his speech during the same event.
Drew Endy at Techno X held at ITESO, presenting Synbio 7ed , of IGEM.
At the beginning of the presentation at TecnoX
Interactive quiz made to the Audience with Kahoot to evaluate how many Scientific myths they knew were fake
Role play activity made for the audience to present and argument their views/interests accordingly to their role government, industry and society towards a certain “dangerous chemical” that turned out to be H20. This to expose how information can be manipulated to spread fear in the society towards a particular topic.
Youth Biotech presenting their experiences at COP13-MOP8 as part of the Youth-PRRI delegation
Mildred Jimenez presenting as part of the Youth Biotech group.
Diana Bonilla, one of our team members, and Drew Endy after they discussed the importance of youth participation in forums like the COP-MOP.
Every year, Guadalajara’s State University organizes an event called “Brújula”, which consists on several camps at different high schools in the state of Jalisco where workshops are imparted. This year, we gave a workshop at one of this high schools about science communication and critical thinking. We also talked about Synthetic Biology and how it can be implemented to solve real problems for humanity.
Eliel and Mildred, members of the team, carrying out the Science communication and Critical Thinking workshop at Universidad de la Ciénega High School.
The International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR) organized the 14th International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (ISBGMO), which took place from June 4-8, 2017, in Guadalajara México. It is a is a biennial, international meeting that has previously been hosted in Germany, Canada, China, France, Korea, New Zealand, Argentina, USA and South Africa. It aims to bring together bring together academics, technology developers, regulatory authorities, non-government organisations and other stakeholders involved in all aspects of biosafety. The goal is to shape the way GM technology is regulated. (http://isbr.info/ISBGMO14 ).This was the second time that the Symposium has been held in a Latin American country.
Three of our members presented their perspectives regarding our country’s regulation system and proposed new possible ways to improve them. We also talked to the organizers about the importance of youth participation at these events. They said they felt the same and even agreed to give out several scholarships for young scientists to attend.
Diana Rábago presenting at the ISGBMO.
Diana Rábago, Diana Tamayo and Diana Bonilla at the ISBGMO.
Diana Bonilla presenting at the ISGBMO.
Risk Analysis Certification
Conscious on how crucial it is to protect the biological integrity of our ecosystems, especially when working with genetically modified organisms we helped to organize a Risk Analysis course in which we got certified ourselves by the Mexican Association of Biosafety. We learned the three steps of a Risk Analysis: Risk Assessment, Risk management and Risk communication. We also reviewed the concept of “One Health” that emphasizes the interrelationship between animal, human and plant health. All of these concepts were taken into account when we designed and carried out our project. We also developed a risk analysis ourselves that can be found in our Biosafety section.
Example: Diana Tamayo’s diploma for her attendance and participation on the AMEXBIO workshop.
This year we had a participation in GapSummit 2017, held in Washington D.C. This is an annual event, organized by the Global Biotech Revolution, that selects 100 leaders of Tomorrow in Biotechnology from around the world to discuss solutions for the gaps on the Bioeconomy with current world leaders of the area. Some of our members got the chance to attend, so we developed science communication VLOGS to share the discussions that were held there and interviewed the organizers and speakers for them to share their concerns and inspire young scientists to take actions that make a change and solve problems like climate change, contamination, famine, antibiotic resistance, cancer, among others. The videos can be found in Youth Biotech’s youtube channel.
Mildred Jiménez interviewing Katarzyna Kowalik, one of the other leaders at the summit.
Mildred Jiménez interviewing Felix Breyer, GapSummit’s 2018 President.
Eliel Villegas interviewing Hudson Freeze on the importance of science communication.
Eliel Villegas interviewing Ipshita Mandal, Global Biotech Revolution Co-founder.
Annual event hosted in Jalisco that reunites the young talent of the country and makes up the biggest technology and entrepreneurship community in Mexico. It focuses on innovation, creativity, science and digital entertainment. The event has hosted big personalities and influential people such as Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Neil Armstrong, Bruce Dickinson, among others (http://mexico.campus-party.org)
This year, we gave a conference called “The phantoms of Biotechnology: past, present and future”, in which we discussed classic biotechnology and its current and future panorama. After the presentation, several attendees came to us and shared their concerns regarding science communication.
Diana Tamayo and Eliel Villegas presenting “The Phantoms of Biotechnology: Past, Present and Future”.
Diana Tamayo and Eliel Villegas presenting “The Ghosts of Biotechnology: Past, Present and Future”.
Youth Biotech members sharing with Greenpeace representative information regarding the real implications of Synthetic Biology and biosafety.
Food Evolution Screening
Tired of all the misconceptions and bad reputation of GM crops, which are mostly under the perception of being unhealthy for the human being and the environment, we joined the international Food Evolution campaign by organizing a screening of the movie in our university in collaboration with the Mexican Synthetic Biology Network. The movie is narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson and intends to promote science based decisions regarding the use of GMO crops. We organized an activity at the end of the screening to promote the public’s reflection
Food Evolution screening poster.
Team member Diana Rábago and Environmental Engineer Ediner Fuentes during the discussión held after the screening. Doubts regarding GM crops and their environmental impact were answered by Ediner Fuentes.
Food Evolution screening at Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Guadalajara.
Science Manual for elementary school kids
June - October 2017
Throughout the process of making our genetically engineered machine, we also focused on the importance of spreading science to people and most importantly to those in their early stages in life. This is why, in collaboration with the other two mexican iGEM teams we created a fun science manual full of easy experiments for elementary school students. This manual is intended to be presented to the Mexican Ministry of Education. Each team collaborated in proposing 10 different experiments according to the national educational plan. We validated the experiments in public and private schools in the cities of Chihuahua, Guadalajara and Mexico City where we got feedback from teachers and students. We aim to awaken the children’s curiosity and to bring them closer to scientific activities to, in the long term, increase the scientific development in Mexico. For more detail please visit our Collaborations section.
Front page of the science manual.
Team members José Ferrer and Frida García at the elementary school where they validated the science manual.
Team members José Ferrer and Frida García during the validation of the science manual.
Team members José Ferrer and Frida García at the elementary school where they validated the science manual.
This year AllBiotech, a Latin American version of GapSummit was also held. The event took place in Santiago, Chile and some of our members also attended. We, as well, created science communication VLOGS to share the discussions that were held there, which focused on agriculture, technology transfer, biohacking, famine, climate change, among others. The videos can be found in Youth Biotech’s youtube channel.
Diana Bonilla and Mildred Jiménez, among other attendees from Mexico during the event.
Diana Bonilla and Mildred Jiménez talking to Ana Sifuentes, from iGEM Headquarters during the event. Had the chance to meet with her and explain her the PHAgave project.
I Support Sience Campaign
Team members organized a campaign of sports dry-fit shirts sale (which can also be found at our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/IGEM-TEC-GDA-807301782767980/) not only to support some expenses from reagents, but we mainly took it as an opportunity to spread the message of people supporting science development in our home country. Recently, Mexico has suffered budget cuts in the science development area, actually in 2016, the government subtracted 7 thousand million mexican pesos (which equals 350,000,000 USD) from the funds destined for the National Chamber of Science and Technology. Meaning there are less funds for investigation and technology (Hernández, 2016). The shirts had 3 different phrases and colors and we made our marketing campaign with #IsupportScience.
In order to raise funds for the project and spread the word on science, we developed a campaign in which we sold sports t-shirts with labels promoting science.