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Who is afraid of Biotechnology?

Hima Puthussery

10 Mar 2015

On 9 December 2014, SCI held its Biotechnology Group's Annual General Meeting at Belgrave Square. The event overviewed the group's activities for the year and this was followed by presentations from six group members. The conceptual focus of the discussions remained on the importance of networking and communications between academic and non-academic SCI members for facilitating further research opportunities, widening knowledge of employment perspectives.

Dr Mary Nnankya, of Namba Biotechs UK Ltd enlightened the gathering on SCI Biotechnology Social media accounts. Dr Nnankya discussed the effects of various social networking platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter in having the potential to widen the reachability of the group. There was a general consensus about the need for increasing the visibility of the group by exploring these avenues.

Dr Namdar Baghaei-Yazdi of Biotechnology Consultants Ltd followed with a very refreshing take on how to establish a technology start up. The audience connected well with the presentation as it had excerpts from his own experience in the field of having explored research in renewable fuels. The take home message was to be aware of the recent socio-economic developments and policies related to the field of exploration. He exemplified this with the argument of how fracking might slightly blur technology development avenues in biofuels.

Dr Ipsita Roy of the University of Westminster illustrated the biomedical applications of polyhydroxyalkanoates, a bioplastic produced by bacteria. She discussed how the research has the potential to contribute to regenerative medicine by being biodegradable and biocompatible. This she argued was an area that seemed to fit well with the greener agendas of science in general. Dr Guneet Kaur from Dr Roy's group followed the talk with her take on being creative with bioreactors. She illustrated innovative fermentation strategies for optimising process yield, some of which she currently employs in polyhydroxyalkanoate production.

Ms Elham Shirazi gave a new perspective on Microbial Cross-talks, which is explained as communications between bacteria as well as yeasts, the outcome of which could be facilitated interactions between them. She explained how this could be exploited for deriving useful industrial by-products. 

Prof Taj Keshavarz summed up the presentations with his views of what can now be regarded as biotechnology - how the subject has evolved over time. He argued that with the interdisciplinary nature and interdependence of various streams of science, it was almost impossible to coin a name for any field of science. He also mentioned how with the advent of technology and understanding of mechanisms, even simple home science falls under the area of biotechnology.

The evening had a perfect ending with a networking session under the canopy, sumptuously provided with nibbles. The general feeling was for more initiatives to be developed from students in the organisation, which could be to their benefit in exploiting the society to the fullest. Dr Nnankya welcomed increased involvement from students.

Hima Puthussery PhD student,
University of Westminster

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