This webinar session was held starting from the organizers' concerns about the low desire of some communities in Indonesia to be vaccinated. One of the factors that cause some of the people in Indonesia to decline getting vaccinated is related to its safety and halal. In the midst and chaos of the pandemic, controversies and conspiracies concerning the vaccinations and their safety were circulating in Indonesia, adding more fear to the vaccines. Also due to the lack of right information, this is expected to happen. Because of the lockdown situation in our country, we were unable to host an in-person event, therefore we decided that virtual talks would be a better way to also educate more people by reaching a larger audience. To reach more diverse audience, we sought out several media partners for the advertising of our seminar. We believe that now is the appropriate time to educate people about the vaccination and to bring up synthetic biology while addressing the related sciences, and also due to Indonesia being dominated by Muslims by almost 87% of the population.
This seminar attracted many people, more than 300 people signed up to the event. From the list of participants, the registrants come from the academics, researchers, students, students, and the general public. The diverse backgrounds of the participants made the discussion session even more exciting. The questions asked by the audience showed that the delivery of information about synthetic biology was provoking a lot of interest and curiosity.
Because synthetic biology is mostly presented in an overly technical and complex manner, it appears to be too far removed from most people's daily lives. We expect that by hosting a casual conversation where attendees may ask questions directly to the experts, more people would be able to relate to and comprehend synthetic biology. The experts and the audience were invited to engage in open conversation during the session.
This activity lasted for 3 hours and was held on Saturday, September 4, 2021 through a zoom meeting. For the opening activity, we briefly introduced the CHOP System project by the iGEM Brawijaya team which was guided by Vika as the iGEM Brawijaya team leader. Then it was followed by talk shows with 3 great speakers who had joined us that day.
In addition to the presentation of the material above, we also introduced the iGEM competition to participants. The presentation of the material was led by Roudlotul Jannah as iGEM Ambassador for Asia and an alumni of Universitas Brawijaya. Jannah explained various things about how to participate in the iGEM competition, starting from how to form a team, what to prepare, to the range of funds needed. Jannah also conveyed various benefits after participating in the iGEM competition, ranging from the useful knowledge, broad relationships, new experiences, to being able to meet and get acquainted with other iGEMers from other countries! Unexpectedly, there were a lot of enthusiastic participants asking Jannah and Vika about the ins and outs of the iGEM competition.
Halal Aspect of Synthetic Biology
This material was presented by Dr. Ir. Hj. Mulyorini R. Hilwan, M. Sc as the Advisor of the Directorate of Halal Audit Services of The Assessment Institute for Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics Majelis Ulama Indonesia (LPPOM MUI). Mrs. Mulyorini emphasized that there are critical points for materials, facilities, and production processes for synthetic biological products that must be considered to create halal products. In Indonesia itself, there is no database for halal for synthetic biology. It is hoped that in the future, the database can be developed immediately considering that synthetic biological products have great potential to be utilized.
Synthetic Biology & Its Application
People in Indonesia still aren’t familiar with the term synthetic biology, even though the products have been widely consumed. We invited Ms. Nurul Izzati, M.Sc, as the Founder of synbio.id to deliver this material to increase awareness on synthetic biology. According to Ms. Nurul, synthetic biology has been developed in the last 2 decades. Synthetic biology is not directly related to our everyday life, but biological synthetic products are very helpful for humans to support their daily lives. One of the applications of synthetic biology is actually very close to our lives, such as GMO plants, fruit products in agriculture, bioflavour, pharmaceuticals, and many more.
We also asked for the participant feedback, which was very positive, with participants stating that this session helped them gain insight and perspectives into synthetic biology, agreeing that synthetic biological processes can be safe, lawful, and harmless, and also demonstrating that synthetic biology's role is important in many aspects and is actually quite relatable to our daily lives including pharmaceuticals, bioflavour, vaccine, and many more.
Expectantly, the awareness of synthetic biology will be broadened as an outcome of this seminar. We invited participants to Whatsapp groups not just to deliver event information, but also to allow participants to engage with one another regarding the project. After the seminar, several attendees began learning about plasmid design straight immediately, reaching out to our team and other participants in the group for information on the software that is used for plasmid design. We also made the video recording available to the public via the iGEM Brawijaya Youtube channel in order to reach a larger audience and offer access to those who were unable to attend the event.
This has been such a great event for us! We did not expect that many participants were enthusiastic about the three materials presented by each person. Lastly, we are very grateful to the sponsors who have helped us so that we can hold this webinar activity. We would also like to thank all the team members and participants who attended. Hope we can host another webinar event next year!
Implementation & Future Prospect
Our team intends to create a halal database for synthetic biology materials in order to implement and plan for the halal aspect of synthetic biology in the future. We are planning to include the database in our wiki page as this would be beneficial for researchers who want to create halal products, such as pharmaceuticals, to confirm that their creations are inclusive and halal for the Muslim population that will use them. We provided a list of most of the components and materials needed for synthetic biology research to The Assessment Institute for Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics Majelis Ulama Indonesia (LPPOM MUI). However, it turns out that LPPOM MUI does not certify the materials. Nevertheless, they have agreed to provide us with the papers and guidance we need to learn more about each of the products.