3 years of SynBioBR: a look back on the history of the Brazilian synbio community

Text by: Cibele Zolnier, Executive Director at SynBioBR

Three years ago, on March 5th, 2021, we created the founding group of the Brazilian Association of Synthetic Biology – SynBioBR. It all started with a group of passionate people with the shared goal of bringing together the synbio community across Brazil.

Our official launch happened on March 26th, 2021, on the social media channels of our late Brazilian iGEM Meetup, affectionately called Jamboré Brasuca. Interestingly enough, our anniversary is very close to another important date for the Brazilian synbio community: five years since we closed our time capsule. That’s right – our community has a time capsule, which we will open in 2029!

It all happened on March 30th, 2019, when we celebrated 10 years of Brazilian teams participating in iGEM, during our Jamboré Brasuca. But before getting there, let’s go back a bit further in our story… And be prepared – my undergraduate thesis was on the synthetic biology landscape in Brazil, so I have a lot of nice facts to share!

SynBioBR's first post (Mar/2021)
Jamboré Brasuca (Mar/2019)

Synthetic Biology in Brazil had its “official” debut in 2009 when we had our first iGEM team, Unicamp Brazil, and the first publications with “synbio” as a keyword. Of course, it didn’t all happen in the blink of an eye. Before that, we had many amazing scientists working with molecular biology and genetic engineering, applying synbio principles to their research. But this was the moment when synthetic biology started getting recognition as a stand-alone approach. It was also when our community started growing around this exciting new field.

Things continued shyly for a couple of years, until 2013 when we had the first Jamboré Brasuca, with the teams from UFAM, UFMG, and USP; showcasing how synbio was truly spreading across Brazil. Our participation in iGEM continued growing, as well as our accomplishments on a national level. In 2016, we had the creation of the INCT-BioSyn affiliated with Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology. In 2018, we had the launch of the first open synbio lab, Idea Real in UFMG, and many more accomplishments by our outstanding community.

And with this, we arrived in 2019, when our community got together in Lorena – SP, for an event I had the immense honor to help organize. That’s when different conversations started on the need for a more formal space to connect our community. It’s also when we closed our time capsule, filled with memories and wishes for the future – I can’t believe we’re already halfway through the time to open it up!

All these events built up to 2021 when a group of enthusiastic students got together with the wish to create something bigger. I invite you to read more about that in the amazing words of our Director of Operations, Giovanna Maklouf, in the special edition of our newsletter last year (text in Portuguese): Breaking barriers and building bridges from the Amazon to the Pampas.

Since then, a lot has happened. We hosted the 1st Brazilian Symposium on SynBio, with +1500 people from all over Brazil joining us. We hosted many other exciting events, including the 2021 iGEM Jamboree Meetup and several gatherings for SynBioBR Convida. And participated in many more, always representing our vibrant community.

Brazilian iGEM Giant Jamboree Meetup (Nov/2021)

Last year, we obtained our official status as a formalized non-profit association. It was also when we hosted the I Brazilian Forum on Synthetic Biology, leading to the creation of our researchers network – which we will share more about soon.

For this year, we have many exciting plans, which will be announced in the next couple of months! Spoiler alert: one includes an event you can’t miss, and another is an opportunity to actively contribute to our Association. We are also always open to listening to new ideas, even if they sound crazy at first sight…

So, to conclude, here’s a toast to more than 15 years of synthetic biology in Brazil and 3 years of SynBioBR! We couldn’t be prouder of our history as a community, and we can’t wait to continue building our future together!

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