Education and Communication

Educational Event with High School Students


We and iGEM Kyoto jointly hosted an educational event for high school students with the collaboration of the Japan Biology Olympiad committee. These students were Japan’s candidate members for the International Biology Olympiad and had a strong interest and knowledge in the field of biology. More specifically, they have won prizes in the Japan Biology Olympiad 2020 and were trying to participate in the international competition as a representative of Japan. Therefore, we strongly believe that exchanging opinions with them will have an enormous impact on the advance of synthetic biology in Japan.
Unfortunately, iGEM is not well known in Japan, even among those students who are keen on biology.Therefore, we tried to contribute to the development of synthetic biology by providing opportunities for talented high school students in Japan to learn about iGEM.

How did we communicate with high school students?

We held an online meetup with about 10 high school students who were nominees for representatives of Japan in the International Biology Olympiad. We firstly gave a presentation on our projects, and then answered questions and exchanged opinions with them.
At first, most of the students did not know about synthetic biology. They listened carefully to our presentations and gradually were impressed by the possibilities of syn-bio approach. Learning through our project and Team Kyoto’s project, they got interested in the concept of iGEM in which we can get the best out of living things.

What did we learn from this meetup?

Many students in iGEM UTokyo and iGEM Kyoto have experiences of participating in the Biology Olympiads, and in communicating with younger but clever students, we felt a sense of responsibility. Some of them may participate in the future iGEM, by learning through our projects and getting interested in iGEM activities. In a sense, it is our role to expand the community of synthetic biology, and motivating students who bear the future of iGEM projects in Japan has a great importance. This event also affected our motivation toward the project. We came to think that we have to make our projects fruitful and produce good results for the juniors.
This event also made us realize how difficult it is to communicate our project. Not many questions were raised at the event and it ended in mostly one-way speaking, from us to the junior representatives. We think this is partly because it was an online event, which made it more difficult to ask questions than face-to-face.
We are now planning to make a more engaging event. Activities like doing card games we have translated into Japanese in the course of collaboration will help them become interested in the potential of iGEM. By taking advantage of online features such as chat rooms or small breakout rooms, we can create an at-home atmosphere where people can easily understand our presentation and ask questions.
As a member of the world’s biggest syn-bio competition, we also want to spread the importance of engaging actively in global communication. Since our project was formed in collaboration with international teams, we want to emphasize on what we learned in exchanging opinions globally. Talks on the importance of international exchanges will surely motivate them to participate in the frontier of synthetic biology.

Future prospects

iGEM UTokyo will continue to promote iGEM to the participants of the Biology Olympiad every year. Moreover, since we learned iGEM activities are much connected with other fields (eg. chemical reactions modelling) and are interesting for students who are not familiar with biology, we would like to reach out to more various students, from next year onwards.

Free Discussion with Sanyo Chemical Industries, Ltd.


Project implementation to society is one of the most difficult but important parts of iGEM projects. We tried to learn a lot about the practical application of our projects by interacting with a company which is developing a biotech-based medical product. We communicated in the form of an online free discussion with engineers from Sanyo Chemical Industries, Ltd., in order to exchange opinions and find a way to put our project and more broadly projects that use synthetic organisms into practical use. Sanyo Chemical is a company that utilizes genetic recombination technology to produce an artificial protein called Silk Elastin®, which is being developed as a wound-healing and meniscus regeneration material. We first contacted them for their financial support and held an exchange on our project with them on September 24th.

What did we learn from the discussion?

At the discussion, we first explained our project in detail. Then, we and researchers from Sanyo Chemical asked questions and comments to each other, mainly about the practical aspects. Through this meetup, we were able to learn well about what points corporate researchers put emphasis on for the practical application of the products. For example, they were concerned with whether our bandage can emit the color enough for anyone to recognize, and whether the yeasts used in our device have any adverse effects on patients or not.
We also learned the approval process for practical use. When we asked what efforts are being made to use living genetically modified organisms in Japan, they gave an example of wastewater treatment systems. Then we discussed the trend toward the use of genetically modified organisms in medical products. It was meaningful to exchange opinions and knowledge with people who are working on product development on the front line. It was also a great opportunity to introduce iGEM and what we do in it? to corporate researchers.

Future prospects

We are going to keep communicating with researchers and engineers who are trying to implement syn-bio products into a society, which will not only make our project more applicable but also expand the community of synthetic biology.