BioBuilder was absolutely thrilled to be part of the Built with Biology conference in California in April! The three-day, in-person event brought together leading synthetic biology innovators, investors, engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists, thought leaders, policy makers, and academics to talk with, learn from, and inspire the synthetic biology community.

Dr. Natalie Kuldell, Founder and Executive Director of BioBuilder, and several BioBuilder students, teachers, and supporters, enjoyed three days of incredible speakers, breakout sessions, networking, and more.

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BioBuilder took to the stage three times during the conference to discuss different aspects of their impact in synthetic biology.

First up: Opportunities and Challenges for Women Founders and Investors in Synthetic Bio

Dr. Kuldell joined three other women founders and investors to discuss their journeys starting or investing in synthetic bio:

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The audience heard how each of these distinguished women successfully achieved their goals and what they learned along the way. The information shared by these amazing women was a great source of ideas and encouragement for the many women attendees striving to make a difference in the synthetic biology industry and the world!

Next up: Life-Changing Education: Sowing the seeds, growing the future

Dr. Kuldell opened this session by sharing with the audience the impetus that led her to establish the BioBuilder Educational Foundation, how the programming works, and the impact BioBuilder has had on its students and the bioengineering industry since the nonprofit’s inception 10 years ago.

As she expressed at the conference, “BioBuilder is tapping into the potential of students and teachers to be world changers. Its hands-on, practical training differs from other programs, as does its accessibility for all students and schools.”

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Tennessee teachers Evie Lafollette and Amanda Blackburn spoke about their BioBuilder classroom programming in Appalachia, how it has impacted their high school students, and the discoveries they have made.

BioBuilder alum Susana Donkor talked about her discovery of the BioBuilder program and how it has positively impacted her life. Specifically, Ms. Donkor’s BioBuilder experience led her to Simmons University where she earned her B.S. in biochemistry and onward to synthetic biology company RootPath where she is a research associate.

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Finally, David Golden, CEO of East Tennessee State University Research Corporation, shared how he came to discover BioBuilder while serving as SVP at Eastman Chemical, and how that investment in bringing BioBuilder to East Tennessee has impacted the students, universities, and businesses of the region.

The audience appreciated how BioBuilder can be successfully brought to any location and provide a return-on-investment that will benefit the people and businesses of the region for years to come.

And last up: Race Against the Clock!

Day 3 of the conference was high energy! The conference organizers and Ginkgo Bioworks sponsored an additional 500 students and startup leaders to attend an event they called “Race Against the Clock.” Their goal was to inspire and help newcomers make helpful professional connections. Dr. Kuldell and Susana Donkor were interviewed by Fiona Mischel in a “fireside chat” from the mainstage.

Some videos of the high school students in Tennessee were shown on the screens in the auditorium. They eloquently articulated the impact that BioBuilder’s meaningful education can have.

In October 2021, Schmidt Futures formed a Task Force to develop recommendations and a strategy to help realize the potential of the bioeconomy for maximum public benefit. Task force members include subject matter experts in diverse disciplines, investors, industry leaders, and other biotechnology leaders.

The group studied and considered what it would take for the U.S. and people worldwide to maximize the benefits of the bioeconomy. BioBuilder’s Dr. Natalie Kuldell served as a Task Force member, bringing her insight and knowledge about synthetic biology education and workforce development to bear on the future bioeconomy.

The Task Force recommendations and strategy are presented in The U.S. Bioeconomy: Charting a Course for a Resilient and Competitive Future. The report was released on the third day of the Built with Biology Conference and presented by Eric Schmidt from the main stage.

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Congratulations and many thanks to Dr. Kuldell for contributing her time and expertise to this important endeavor!

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