Building Relationships


Our team is committed to forming and maintaining meaningful relationships with other iGEMers. We believe that we are stronger as a community than we are alone. This year we were excited to learn and share our knowledge and resources with teams from our country and beyond!


In Alberta we are lucky that there are a number of organizations that support early stage startups and the development of their technologies. Whether it’s in biotechnology, or the tech sector, there are companies that specialize in their growth. Alberta Innovates is one of the organizations that our team has worked with extensively, exploring how we can pursue our project in the startup space through IP protection. Our team wanted to encourage other Alberta teams to explore these entrepreneurship avenues so that they can move their projects beyond the lab as well.

We invited Alberta iGEM teams to a midsummer meetup to share projects and learn about synthetic biology entrepreneurship after iGEM. The attendees included members from the University of Alberta,and Lethbridge collegiate teams as well as the Lethbridge High School team.

We designed this event to foster both entrepreneurship and camaraderie among aspiring innovators. The first part of our event was aimed at developing our iGEM projects as business proposals. All teams presented a short elevator pitch of their project, which was followed by a brief question and feedback period where members from other teams and guests could comment. The pitch allowed teams to start thinking about how their project could fit into the market and be of value to the current economy. Four guest speakers were then invited to talk about specific topics in entrepreneurship and provide advice on how to transform ideas into businesses.


  • Dr. Peter Facchini- a University of Calgary Professor and Co-founder of Willow Biosciences talked about his experience of taking his research and turning it into a company. He emphasized the importance of passion, patience, and persistence when starting a company.
  • Emily Hicks from FREDsense was a member of the 2012 iGEM Calgary team where she, along with her teammates, turned their project into a company after the Jamboree. Emily highlighted the obstacles FREDsense faced in terms of funding the company and acquiring support.
  • University of Calgary law student Jason Arnason gave an informative presentation about acquiring patents and protecting intellectual property. Our team had very limited knowledge on this topic when we started our project this year, so we wanted to ensure other teams got the information they needed to protect their ideas as well.
  • Swapan Kakumanu- Co-Founder of the consulting firm Red to Black Inc provided his expertise on how to finance start-ups and navigate the market when creating a new product. He talked about the different funding options available to start-ups and how to reach out to investors.

The latter half of our event was focused on building inter-team relationships, creating a network of support, and starting collaborations between the Alberta iGEM teams. We organized social activities and games to accomplish this, and provided guiding questions for the initiation of collaborations.

We consider JulyGEM a success, as we accomplished many of the goals we initially set. A survey was sent to all attendees after the event, many of whom commended the entrepreneurial insight and information provided by speakers. Particularly, the presentation on IP protection and patent acquisition were mentioned to be very valuable. Additionally, our goal of building camaraderie and support amongst teams was accomplished through our social events.

Despite our successes, there are some areas for improvement. Extending the event over two days may have allowed us to further accomplish our goals and add other elements which may have helped the teams. Workshops on pitching and specific elements of entrepreneurship may have been more helpful for the teams. One-on-one time with the speakers may have fostered better conversation, as the speaker presentations were stylized as lectures rather than discussions. Finally, we realized that this event may not have been the best opportunity for forming collaborations, which was one of our main goals for the event. In the future, it may be valuable to add a more formal workshop specifically for collaborations if that continues to be one of the event’s goals.


Supporting new iGEMers

As part of our education and outreach work, we created an intro to synthetic biology education package. Our team rolled out the package as a for-credit university level course, but we thought that iGEM teams would find it useful for training their new members. We collaborated with Waterloo, KC, CU iGEM, iGEM Tacoma RainMakers, and Concordia-Montreal iGEM teams. by sending them our package as a training tool in exchange for feedback on its content and structure.

Feedback received from participating teams is currently being consolidated and will be crucial for the future development of the package.

Pacific Northwest Meetup

Seattle, Washington

In mid-August, a few of our team members flew out to the beautiful Seattle, Washington to attend the second annual Pacific Northwest Meetup hosted by the Washington and SoundBio iGEM teams. All of the teams gave a 10-minute presentation on their projects and judges and audience members gave feedback and suggestions for improvement. Many specific workshops were also organized to help teams with the various components of their projects; however, the workshop on wiki and poster design led by North American iGEM ambassador and UC San Diego 2018 project lead Varun Govil, was especially interesting to us. Additionally, on the second day of the event we got to participate in a poster making session where we got a chance to try mapping out our ideas and learn some tips and tricks for making an intriguing and informative poster.

Attending Pacific Northwest also allowed us to learn about a few of the iGEM projects going on outside of Canada, and we got the opportunity to build new friendships and collaborations with the Washington, SoundBio, and Tacoma RainMakers iGEM teams. We hope to stay in contact with our friends in Seattle.


Edmonton, Alberta

Alberta's regional synthetic biology competition, aGEM, was held by the University of Alberta,, in conjunction with geekstarter. This collaboration with the UAlberta team involved bringing together all of the Albertan iGEM teams to present our projects at a provincial iGEM conference. All of the teams were able to gain more practice for the Giant Jamboree by getting presentation feedback and participating in workshops. Enjoying our time and fruiting collaborations were great results of aGEM 2019.


To decompress and promote unity in the iGEM community, we participated in numerous small collaborations. Such as:

  • With synthetic biology emerging as a new and innovative industry, the Queen's University iGEM team set about creating a video to answer the most commonly asked questions regarding synbio. Teams from across the country were tasked to record a video of themselves answering a specific synthetic biology question. We sent in our recording, and the Queen's iGEM team compiled it with other other participating teams' recordings to make a video you can watch here!
  • The Connecticut iGEM team and our team held a sock swap over the summer. We sent out very nice socks to Connecticut, but unfortunately received dirty socks from our sender. If you also received dirty socks, we'd like to hear about it! Contact us at
  • Responding to Duesseldorf'scall for post-cards, we designed and sent post-cards to be shared with all participating teams. We would have received another team's postcard, but unfortunately it was stolen by international art thieves before we could receive it!
  • We contributed our protocols to the shared UOttawa protocol bank to help iGEM teams.
  • We reached out to the UAlberta iGEM team by sending them an economic model that encompasses their 2018 project to understand industrial monetary ramifications of their project. This was done in the hopes of creating a strong economic model that ties their agricultural solution with ours.
  • We reached out to the UWaterloo iGEM team to collaborate on a project to visualize iGEM team metadata. Specifically, the aim of the project was to map collaborations between iGEM teams and topics they worked on. We worked on scraping the iGEM wikis using BeautifulSoup in Python, which UWaterloo built off for interactive visualization.
  • We reached out to the UWaterloo iGEM team to collaborate on a project to visualize iGEM team metadata. Specifically, the aim of the project was to map collaborations between iGEM teams and topics they worked on. We worked on scraping the iGEM wikis using BeautifulSoup in Python, which UWaterloo built off for interactive visualization.
  • The sustainable goals challenge was started by the Costa Rica, Taipei American School, and University of Tubingen iGEM teams. Their goal was to promote the SDG goals set by the United Nations in the iGEM community to promote global sustainable development. The hashtag was started on instagram, and teams tagged each other to give four sustainable goals they wanted to accomplish this iGEM season. We were tagged by the University of Westminster and University of AlbertaiGEM teams, and tagged the University of Washington, Northern BC, and Tacoma RainMakers iGEM teams. A total of 74 teams participated in the challenge.