SynBio Canada: Fostering the Canadian Synthetic Biology Community

April 17, 2019

The field of synthetic biology represents a maturation of genetic engineering and biotechnology, where microbes or even human immune cells can be specifically engineered to do useful things. Thus, synthetic biology has the potential to reshape medicine, industry, and agriculture in Canada. But in order for this to be possible, a strong community of researchers, students, companies, and policy makers is needed to collaborate and ensure Canada becomes a leader in the field.

Launched last year in March 2018, SynBio Canada is a trainee-led organization working to strengthen the national synthetic biology community. The primary mission of SynBio Canada is to create a space for the community to gather and share their ideas, news, and opportunities. Through this, SynBio Canada aims to promote Canadian research, advocate for dedicated training programs and funding, and assist in the organization of meetings.

SynBio Canada is modeled on several similar national organizations in the UK, Australasia, the US, Germany, and the EU. Although each organization is structured slightly differently, their goals are largely the same: to promote the synthetic biology community. Recently, SynBio Canada joined with several other organizations to form SynBio Society Consortium. This international collaboration enables the sharing of best practices, and learning how synthetic biology communities and the field itself can be best supported across the globe.

The specific work of SynBio Canada includes publishing blog posts and news articles, sending a bi-monthly email update, and helping to organize discussion groups and symposia across Canada. SynBio Canada’s biggest accomplishment is the creation of a Community Hub for synbio researchers and institutes across Canada. Created based on the need for a more visible and connected community, the Community Hub functions as a very simple “facebook” for synbio in Canada. The goal is to help connect researchers, institutes, and companies from across the diverse but often disparate field of synthetic biology. This Community Hub also serves as an outreach tool for students interested in synthetic biology, and helps to increase the profile of Canadian researchers internationally.

The SynBio Canada leadership has now grown to 12 students, postdocs, and professors, each at a different institute across 4 provinces (and in Canada and the US). SynBio Canada is interested in representing each institution in Canada, to truly create a national community. Currently, all work is done on a volunteer basis, which speaks to the incredible enthusiasm for synthetic biology at the trainee level.

Looking ahead, SynBio Canada is planning to create a public Resource Registry of available physical resources (i.e. equipment) and technical resources (i.e. expertise for using the equipment) in order to better meet the needs of the synbio community. This will require input across the community, which is as simple as contacting SynBio Canada to specify the resources available. Through this effort, equipment can be more strategically applied, with diverse nodes of expertise across Canada. Thus, institute-specific talents in synthetic biology can be promoted, which will compliment rather than compete with each other, to better foster inter-institute collaborations.

SynBio Canada is always looking to improve the community in Canada. You can submit a Community Profile today in just 5 minutes, or you can contact SynBio Canada directly via info@synbiocanada.org if you’d like to join the leadership or learn more about their work.