How Can Synthetic Biology Help Us Grow?

Makerere Uganda iGEM Alex Sign
Alex Kyabarongo poses with the iGEM sign at the 2018 Giant Jamboree.

The iGEM team from Makerere University in Uganda faced seemingly insurmountable challenges in their research on plastic degradation. They had little previous lab experience and their university lacked the supplies and infrastructure to support their project. Even with sponsorships from Promega and several other biotechnology companies, they struggled to gather the funding necessary to get through the competition. Nonetheless, when I met team leader Alex Kyabarongo, he was optimistic about the future of synthetic biology research in Uganda.

“We want to extend this to the community,” Alex told me during the iGEM Giant Jamboree. “We want to remove the negativity around bacteria and tell people, ‘Look! There are bacteria that are deadly, and bacteria that are helpful. How can they be helpful?’ And I believe we have managed to establish our roots.”

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Synbio Africa is a forum for researchers, students, citizen scientists, policy makers and the public at large to convene and develop successful pathways for the propagation of synthetic biology technologies, products and services throughout Africa.

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