The AusSynbio Challenge, first announced at the SBA Conference 2019, is well on its way and we can expect to see and hear many developments over this first year of its delivery. The Challenge is being led by an Executive Team who are excited to announce that various universities across WA, NSW, ACT, VIC, and QLD have now committed to embarking on this pilot experience during 2020. The focus of the Challenge is to help integrate synthetic biology into the educational pipeline of Australia and further develop a diverse local community around synthetic biology for real-world applications.Therefore, the Challenge exec are intentionally not referring to this program as a competition. The work teams produce will be evaluated, but teams won’t be ranked and there won’t be a “winner”. Instead, teams will benefit in taking part by learning skills and benefiting from the in-kind donations from sponsors such as Twist and Blackbird ventures. Moreover, participants will become a part of the growing ecosystem of synthetic biology related research, industry, and application in Australia.  

During this pilot of the Challenge, university teams will be working together to develop and progress an original synthetic biology project designed to be innovative, relevant and scientifically feasible. They will have opportunities to receive feedback on their project ideas from experts in the field before getting into the lab and building and testing their genetically engineered organisms. This is where you come in- the Challenge exec is now putting a call out for those interested in being involved as  reviewers. Briefly, reviewers should expect to donate no more than 2-3 hours in mid-April 2020 to review project ideas and/or be available to attend the Showcase event, which will occur on 17 September 2020 in Sydney, in connection with the CSIRO Synthetic Biology FSP workshop. Please forward any expression of interest by emailing the exec directly at synbiochallenge@csiro.au with your background and an indication of whether you would be available for the mid-April review, or be available to attend the September final Showcase, or both. Please note, we are keeping an eye on the progression of COVID-19 and will modify the format of the final Showcase event to a virtual meeting should the need arise. The Challenge exec is aiming for an experienced and diverse range of reviewers, so please feel welcome to apply! We are happy to discuss any concerns or queries you might have regarding these roles and welcome everyone to put forward an expression of interest.  

Finally, the Challenge exec is also excited to announce that they are being supported by the CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform to get this first pilot program off the ground! This sponsorship offers the entire volunteer exec team some professional support to help ensure the pilot is still sharp and well organized. You can follow the progress of the Challenge on Twitter @SynBioChallenge or on their website soon to be announced. 

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