On Thursday April 27th, we were excited to officially kick off the 2023 Australasian Synthetic Biology Challenge for our organisers, mentors and participants! Our Co-Chair Jason Whitfield took us down memory lane, talking about the challenge's history, from its launch at SBA Brisbane in 2019 to now being part of a thriving synthetic biology ecosystem. 2023 will be the first time all Challenge participants will participate in an in person showcase and we can’t be more excited to see what our teams have been up to across Australian universities.
A highlight of the evening was hearing from guest speaker Maddison McCoy who is currently working as a Project Coordinator at Nourish Ingredients. Maddy participated in the first iteration of the ASBC which kickstarted her journey in synthetic biology where she is now working at one of Australia’s most innovative agri-food tech companies.
Maddy reflected on her undergraduate degree which took many twists and turns, crediting ASBC as the first time she got to work in the lab to apply the scientific knowledge she had been learning during classes to solve a real problem. As part of the 2020 QUT team, Maddy worked on a project assessing bioproduction of pyomelanin, a polymer with multi-industry applications surrounding its photoprotective potential.
Maddy is vegan and identified strong value alignment with the mission of Nourish Ingredients as a disruptor to the traditional meat and dairy industry, by producing animal-free fats. It was inspiring to hear about Maddison’s initiative to reach out to the CEO of Nourish Ingredients to secure an internship that ultimately led to a full-time role following graduation. As a conduit between many departments and systems at Nourish Ingredients, communication is a key part of Maddy’s role. She explained that there is no typical day when working at a startup, especially when working across many teams like finance, food safety, product development.
Maddy also emphasized the importance of networks in shaping her career and the role of mentors she met as an ASBC participant. The network effect of ASBC provides a platform for participants to build relationships with mentors and peers, gain insights into the synthetic biology landscape, and identify their strengths and where they can fit in the industry or a team.
Looking ahead, Maddy sees tremendous potential for the synthetic biology industry in Australia. With abundant natural and human resources, Australia is well-positioned to benefit from the growth in synthetic biology in the coming years.We are excited to see the incredible ideas and solutions that will emerge from this year's challenge and the impact they will have on the synthetic biology ecosystem.