Whether it is used for the environment, manufacturing, or healthcare, groundbreaking research in synthetic biology is popping up more and more in society—pushing the limits of human knowledge and ability. And after making the necessary adjustments due to COVID-19, MGCI is ready to join; this year’s newly formed BioBuilder Club is prepared to begin learning and brainstorming topics about synthetic biology that may one day alter the world.

In September 2021, Grade 11 student Bill Yan founded the BioBuilder Club after coming across a number of documentaries explaining how synthetic biology has the potential to lead scientists to world-changing discoveries. “We’re planning on researching synthetic biology to try and solve a real-world problem or come up with something new,” Bill said. “I would like to thank my teacher sponsors Ms. Lee and Ms. Lau for their support.”

Members of the BioBuilder club.

As of now, the club is operating fully online through Google Classroom, Discord, and Slack due to pandemic restrictions, so members of BioBuilder will likely not be building together in person. Rather, club executives will lead exciting research on synthetic biology, particularly taking a look at designs and concepts for possible builds. 

During the BioBuilder Club’s virtual meetings, members focus on research in health, food, and the environment, as well as planning out a timeline for future progress. When asked about BioBuilder’s goals and visions, club executive Cullen Ye said, “I hope that BioBuilder will help bring together students interested in synthetic biology and further their knowledge and experience.” Future virtual meeting times are still being confirmed based on the availability of the club members. 

The first club meeting, which was held at the end of October, involved the executive team explaining their plans for the BioBuilder Club before setting up a brainstorming session on possible topics. Some ideas the club came up with included using mosquitoes as vaccinators and harnessing the opossum’s Lethal Toxin Neutralizing Factor (LTNF) as a snake poison antidote. Under the topic of human health, the club also considered the possibility of using genetically engineered E. Coli to prevent the unintended, adverse effects that antibiotics have on gut microbiome health. Yolanda Zhou, a member of the club, said, “Cullen recommended this easy-going club. I enjoy learning about building, and seeing that he is an exec, I wasted no time joining. BioBuilder has already impressed me, and I am looking forward to the rest of the year.”

The primary materials that the BioBuilder Club uses as a starting point for their research include the BioBuilder textbook and the BioBuilder website (https://biobuilder.org). These resources hold a bulk of information, ranging from the fundamentals of synthetic biology to an introduction to BioBuilder labs and complex topics like DNA engineering. Under these topics, the book and website explain engineering, biodesign, the synthetic biology toolkit, and more. Furthermore, they cover details about past builds and include information about future opportunities for students to apply what they learned with BioBuilder. “I hope BioBuilder will give participants a deeper understanding into the world of synthetic biology, and that participants will [come up with] something novel, creative, and or interesting,” said club executive Tony Zhang.

The club is still open to new members; all they need to do is join the Google Classroom (the code is “oomxaxy”) and the Discord server (https://discord.gg/jM6GmtNb) to find sign-up links, download the textbook, and attend the club’s virtual meetings. As the weeks go on, the BioBuilder Club will continue to research and innovate, gathering the growing population of students who take interest in synthetic biology.