CU is one of a small list of teams who participated from Africa through the competition history. Synthetic Biology and iGEM communities in Africa and Egypt are so limited, this, as well as being the first team to participate solely from Cairo University, made us so keen to share the field of Synthetic Biology and iGEM competition with our colleagues, professors, and the public.
When we first decided to participate in iGEM, it was after Youssef, who later became the team leader, read about the competition. We spent months learning about the fields and the competition.
Introducing synthetic biology to our faculty and university was our priority, we were so persistent to educate our colleagues about Synthetic Biology.
To accomplish this; we designed an educational board game for BioBricks assembly and gave eight sessions and talks about Synthetic Biology and our project.
It is not easy to explain the Biobricks concept to students for the first time. Accordingly, we designed and built a game to explain the biobrick assembly, mimicking the actual experiment that takes place in the lab.
The players are provided with biobricks (promoters, RBS, CDS, Tags, Terminators, Linkers), Plasmid backbone, required enzymes and reagents in the form of stickers.
The game enables the players to build functional genetic circuits by assembling the Biobricks in the right order using the right reagents. HeIp is provided with a Cheat Sheet that contains all the parts with a detailed description. The sheet contains many deceiving parts to make sure that players pick the right part for the right reason. Each team has to build a functional device.
Get the BBa Game
This game enables presenters to easily explain the Biobrick concept, rate how much the audience understood it by evaluating the resulted genetic circuits and show them how synthetic biology has made all these genetic engineering experiments much easier.
When?26 September 2019.Audience:40 attendees.Where? The Embassy of Knowledge (EoK), through these Embassies; students and other visitors are able to access the Bibliotheca Alexandria’s rich selection of electronic resources and watch live lectures, seminars, and cultural events from the BA and other Embassies.
Although Biotechnology is still considered as a new field in Egypt, lately, many people have been familiar with it. On the other side, Synthetic Biology is ambiguous, not only for the public but also for science students and even faculty professors.
This motivated us to prepare an informative and comprehensive session -Synthetic Biology 101- to demonstrate Synthetic Biology disciplines, Molecular Biology basics, Biobrick concept, assembly methods, iGEM competition, our project, and our iGEM journey.
We also gave a mini-tutorial on using molecular biology software tools (Benchling) and applied the restriction ligation experiment in silico that we had previously explained in the session.
We were so keen to make an interactive session and to make sure that the audience would benefit the most from it. So, we created the BBA game to teach students how to assemble Biobricks and build functional genetic circuits. We used the genetic circuits designed by Aldo-Helsinki 2017 and Aldo-Helsinki 2018 to guide them to build their devices.
We also added some learn and fun part by playing Hero Coli (a Synthetic Biology online game)
The attendees were Biotechnology, Biochemistry and Computer Science
students. We wanted to be sure that Cairo University students know everything
about iGEM competition, challenges, and obstacles that we faced and encouraged them to participate in the next years. So, we shared our story with them and provided enough time for a Q&A session.
When? 16 September 2019.Audience:~50 Children with their parents.
Where? Hall 8, Entomology Department, Faculty of Science.
As someone might have noticed, Egypt only participates with undergraduate students in iGEM, and this is due to the fact that most high school students know neither about Synthetic Biology nor iGEM; So we asked the Dean of our Faculty Dr ElManawy to take part in an event that was organized by Cairo University for school students. We gave a talk about the basic concepts of Biotechnology and iGEM competition and made a DNA Extraction experiment from bananas. Also, we gave a DNA origami workshop to help them visualize the shape of DNA. Children were very excited and interactive, they asked multiple questions about the competition and if they could participate, it was a very fruitful day.
When? 25 September 2018.Audience: 200 students.
Where?Musharafa Hall, Faculty of Science, Cairo University
Our very first human practice was giving an info-session to the newcomers of our Faculty. We gave a presentation about iGEM, Synthetic Biology and our team to the little scientists and featured some previous iGEM projects. We also prepared two small surveys about what they think of Biotechnology, Synthetic Biology, Molecular Biology and how to achieve their goals using this knowledge. A survey was given before and after our presentation. It was a very fruitful day as we were able to get their feedback, they also suggested many ideas that can be applied in our country and the whole world.
When? 3 & 4 March 2019.Audience: ~250 attendees.
Where?Hall 7, Mathematics Department, Faculty of Science.
We took a second step towards spreading synthetic biology to our colleagues. So, we asked our PI Dr Maimona and our Dean Dr Abdelhmaid about the availability of giving info-sessions to younger students and they were more than happy with the idea. On both the 3rd and 4th of March 2019, we were able to reach the second and third-year Biotech students and gave three info-sessions. Many professors in our Faculty supported and helped us as much as they could by giving us some time of their lectures, Special thanks to Dr Aliaa Faryd and Dr Azza Abd El-Wahab. Given this chance, we tried our best to explain iGEM competition, the field of Synthetic Biology and how it applies the engineering concepts in biological systems. Besides, we started the recruitment of younger students from our Faculty. The aim was helping them to gain the experience of participating in the competition so that CU iGEM team participation in iGEM continues in the upcoming years.
When? 5 March 2019.Audience: ~ 20 attendees.
Where? Faculty of Computer Science and artificial intelligence.
Our aim wasn’t only to introduce Synthetic Biology to members and students from the Faculty of Science but to widen the field to other Faculties such as Engineering, Computer Science and Bioinformatics, so we started by contacting the Faculty of Computer Science’s dean to organize a day for us where we could hold an info-session. On 5/3/2019, we gave the info-session at Faculty of Computer Science, Special thanks to Dr Hesham N.El Mahdy, Dr Sayed El-Sherbiny and Dr Nour Mahmoud for helping us to reach other colleagues; During the info session, we demonstrated the concept of Synthetic Biology from an engineering point of view and the role of engineers in iGEM teams, hoping that we could spread the virus of the competition there. On this day, we opened the recruitment for Computer Science and Bioinformatics students so we could build a multidisciplinary team.
When? 9 July 2019Audience: 150 persons.
Where? Ibn Sienna Hall, Astronomy department, Cairo University.
Our team was invited to participate in an event organized by our Faculty. It was one of a series of sessions organized to qualify undergraduates from different disciplines to join Faculty of Science research team. This was another great opportunity to spread the word about iGEM competition. Youssef gave a great talk about team building, our project, fundraising and howwe won the sponsorship of many international companies. Finally, we had time for Q&A, so they had the chance to know everything about the competition and how they could participate in the next years.
From day one we decided to broaden our horizons by attending conferences because they make us gain a lot of experience, communicate with lots of water and desalination experts, iGEMers and Synthetic Biologists.
When? 26 January 2019.
Where? Edge Innovation Center, Cairo.
On 26 January 2019, two of our team members; Tarek and Farouk, attended the iGEM symposium. It was the first African iGEM symposium to be held in Africa and Egypt. We met the African ambassador Jepheth Kelly and the European ambassadors Will Wright and Thea Chrysostomou. We talked with them, benefited from their experience about iGEM and Giant Jamboree and got their opinions about our project. There we have listened to Thea, Will, Jeph and AFCM great presentations about experience they gained from participating in this huge competition. Thanks After iGEM for inviting us to this symposium.
When? 10 April 2019.
Where? New Cairo, Egypt.
On 10 April 2019, we had a meeting with Giza Systems company representatives. Giza Systems is a leading systems integrator in the MENA region, designs and deploys industry-specific technology solutions for asset-intensive industries such as telecoms, utilities, oil and gas, hospitality and real estate among other market sectors. As Giza Systems has experience in Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems for water desalination, we kept discussing the drawbacks of current RO systems and how our project would overcome or slightly diminish these drawbacks. Also, we had a productive discussion with Engineer Ahmed Hegazy about the hardware design. After that, we had a tour at the fabrication lab, where 3D printers are found and we agreed on arranging brainstorming sessions to figure out the hardware design.
When? 22 March 2019.
Where? Egypt International Exhibitions Center, Cairo.
Not so far from making up our minds about working on biodesalination, we were persistent to reach the industry and get full knowledge on how desalination works on a commercial scale. That‘s when we heard about the Watrex Expo conference.
Watrex Expo is one of the largest conferences held every year in Egypt where water leading companies present their products and services, the fabulous fact is that we have found not only companies representatives from national companies but also a lot of experts from different companies all around the world.
We tried our best to make the most out of this chance as much as possible, starting with the booth of SSI aeration system from SSI company we met a foreign expert to explain their product and discussed our project with him trying to get feedback and suggestions, he was very interested in our project and gave us valuable advice on how we should focus on the final cost of desalinated water.
During our visit, we were interested to observe the system design of products working on immobilization of microorganisms on solid support.
The major goal of this visit was to know the opinion of experts specialized in water treatment and desalination. We asked about every detail of the process, energy consumption and any recommendations for how we should integrate our system in a desalination plant. We discussed with a lot of different engineers and project managers from different companies as Veolia, IWTE, IETOS, ISS, AquaNile and WatchWater, most of them suggested that our method would fit to be a pretreatment stage in desalination to decrease the salts in the water before it passes to the reverse osmosis membranes, advising to completely separate the utilized microorganism by filters, all of them were helpful, they gave us their contacts to reach out in case we had any further questions . The day was very valuable and added much to our project.
When? 26 April 2019.
Where? Atlantis Corners, Cairo.
This was the first meetup for the iGEMers in Egypt, organized by the African ambassador Dr Hana Abdel Zaher. It was a great gathering on the Nile where we managed to see AFCM iGEM team once again.
We were invited by Dr Hana, there was a talk about how to present and market our projects, also Dr Mostafa Elnakib, MD Microbiology and Immunology and a consultant of infection prevention control talked about AFCM’s experience during their participation in iGEM.
We got the chance to meet different Biotechnology leaders; Prof. Ahmed ElAwady, Head of the Immunology Program in 57357 hospital, Dr Moahmed El Hadidi, Head of the Bioinformatics Research Group at Nile University, Dr Mohamed Hussien, Operation Manager of Metalab Diagnostic Laboratories, Dr Sherif Abo ElHadid, Chair of the BioKmt Society for Advancement of Science. We asked them some technical questions in addition to their opinions concerning our project. It was a very warm meetup and a great networking opportunity.
When? 13 July 2019.
Audience: ~30 attendees
Where? KMT House, Maadi, Cairo.
One day, while we were surfing the internet, we found a scientific event intended for the young researchers to showcase their work in a conference under the title of "Youth empowerment in sciences". We became so excited to participate so that we can present our project in front of experts and science scholars. So, we submitted the abstract and shortly received the acceptance and an invitation to present.
On Saturday, July 13th 2019, we went to the KMT house where the event was held and Aisha gave a presentation about our project and our participation in iGEM in front of highly respected professors and other young scientists who were all very amazed by what we have done. They also encouraged us and provided their support believing in the power of youth to make a great change in society.
At the end of the day, there was Dr Hana the African iGEM ambassador talking about iGEM and how to participate mentioning the two participating African teams; CU iGEM & AFCM.
When? 25 June 2019.
Where? DAAD Egypt, Zamalek, Cairo.
Throughout the time interval of the competition, we attended many Cairo Climate Talks organized by DAAD Egypt that brings experts from Egypt and Germany on climate change, environmental journalism, and media in order to share their expertise. The major aim for attending these events was engaging and networking with environmental experts, media representatives, and decision-makers. We successfully achieved our goal as we talked with Dr Tamer M. Abou Gharara Advisor of The Minister of Environment who helped us in contacting the ministry of Environment and reaching Dr Osama El-Gebaly, Migratory Soaring Birds project manager -Whom we contacted later to ask about GMO regulations in Egypt-. We also met Ashraf Amin Head of the Science & Health Desk at Al-Ahram Newspaper with whom we discussed our project. He liked the idea so that he wrote an article in Al-Ahram Newspaper on 9 June 2019 describing the idea of our project, the team members and iGEM competition. We also had the chance to contact some experts and scholars though these events.
Social media was a very great and helpful platform for us to share our story, get publicity and spread awareness.
We created Einsteinium at the beginning of our iGEM journey trying to reach not only science students but also the public.
This page includes:
●Translated and simplified previous iGEM projects.
●Comics/ memes related to science and lab experience.
We were so keen on spreading awareness by writing posts in Arabic about critical problems such as water scarcity, Antibiotic resistance problem, vaccination, GMOs etc. (water video)
We created another page on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube; this time our goal was to feature our project and team activities, introduce Synthetic Biology to the public and help other students to know about and participate in iGEM competition.
This page includes:
●Our daily laboratory experience and meetings.
●Detailed educational posts about our project steps, organism (chassis) selection, Synthetic Biology etc.
●The events we participated in or organized and our human practices.
Social media also helped us to get some lab reagents that wasn’t available in the Egyptian market at that time, communicate easily with other iGEM teams,
Believing in the fact that one person could affect a whole community, we aimed to get use of every chance we had to talk about iGEM and Synthetic Biology; introduce this new science to our community as much as we could, and we got these chances several times where we could communicate with people from different platforms.
In different interviews and articles, we gave a brief introduction about iGEM, what makes bio-desalination differs from the current desalination methods, how we were inspired to start, what are the difficult situations that we faced during our start, more details about our project and our considerations to fulfil our society needs
Channel: The Nile TV
Team representatives: Tarek and Lina
Our very first featured article for El-Masry El-Youm journal.
Channel: Greater Cairo Radio ’راديو القاهرة الكبرى’.
Team representatives: Farouk, Mariam, Menna and Youssef.
Channel: Greater Cairo Radio ’راديو القاهرة الكبرى’.
Our second article for Al-Ahram journal was published
Channel: Greater Cairo Radio ’راديو القاهرة الكبرى’
Team representatives: Aisha, Tasneem and Youssef
Channel: In the Egyptian Satellite
Team representatives: Aisha and Youssef