Biotechnology throughout South Africa

The World Biotech Tour (WBT) made its way to South Africa this weekend, with a huge presence in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Midrand, and Cape Town.

Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Johannesburg was the host institution for the WBT’s June 9–11 stop, where Dr. More Chakane, Sci-Bono CEO, and his team organized biotech-themed events, activities, and talks throughout the festival days to delight South African students and the general public with the wonders of biotechnology. Sci-Bono is Southern Africa’s largest science center, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to its large collection of interactive science and technology exhibitions and suite of programs.

Exciting biotechnology engagement events extended outward from J’berg, with satellite festivals at Sci-Enza in Pretoria, Cape Town Science Centre, and a pop-up festival at the Boulders Mall shopping center in Midrand.

I was happy to join representatives from the Southern African Association of Science and Technology Centres (SAASTEC), the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), and the (South African) National Research Foundation (NRF) to talk about the importance of global collaborations among science centers, the biotechnology industry, and the research community in advancing innovation and support in biotechnology and the science, technology, engineering, and math field.

During the festival visitors took part in many of the signature hands-on activities, workshops, and shows unique to the WBT, including

  • Take a “Cellfie”—Setting up a laboratory using some household items, and a cell phone as a portable microscope, to observe their own cheek cells and take a picture for sharing on social networks
  • Virus Slayer—Finding out how scientists try to neutralize viruses by plugging “antibodies” into the right locations on the surface of a virus
  • Paramecium Symphony—Creating music by controlling how live Paramecia swim through a computer-generated musical grid, using a joystick to change the electric field and watching as the animals and watch in real time as the organisms wiggle around the microscope view.

At Sci-Bono and Sci-Enza, there are many high school students serving as Ambassadors for biotechnology and the WBT, sharing engaging presentations on biotechnology in their communities and schools. I invite you to click here and meet Godfrey, Kgaogelo, Khomotso, Khoyu, Maher, Mcdonald, Njabulo, Nkateko, Ntokozo, Nthabiseng, and Siyabonga . . . and read their stories.

The festival also saw the opening of the award winning All from One exhibition by PAST, The Paleontological Scientific Trust, which explores our shared African roots and our place in nature while encouraging people to commit to tolerance, unity, collaboration, and conservation.

The WBT has now traveled to eight countries and engaged more than 250,000 people in biotechnology learning experiences since 2015.

We next trek onward to the tour’s ninth destination: Museu da Vida (Museum of Life) in Rio de Janeiro, June 22–24. Join our adventure by following the WBT on Facebook and Twitter, #WBT2017.