East African countries have the potential to apply synthetic biology in various spheres of their economies. This was observed by participants of the UK-East Africa workshop on synthetic biology held in Nairobi, Kenya, from March 15 to 17, 2017. The workshop, organized by Kenya’s National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) in collaboration with Imperial College London brought together researchers and policymakers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to interact with academics and entrepreneurs from Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh and the John Innes Centre, where synthetic biology applications have been thriving.
Synthetic biology, a relatively new concept, especially in Africa, is a field of biology that adopts an engineering approach for the systematic design and construction of new biological systems and cells. This workshop therefore aimed at identifying specific challenge areas that would benefit from the application of practical synthetic biology technologies in the region. The technology has demonstrated potential for application to solve challenges in the areas of disease detection, agriculture, environment, and industrial processes.
“The choice of Kenya as the first host of such a workshop in the region couldn’t have been better due to the commitment and leadership of her government in science and innovation,” said Dr. Julia Kemp, head of Department for International Development (DFID) East Africa Research Hub at the opening of the workshop. Dr. Moses Rugutt, Director General, NACOSTI said cooperation between Kenya and UK runs deep, noting that this partnership in identifying areas where synthetic biology may be applied takes scientific research and innovation a notch higher.