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Nadine Bongaerts is a synthetic biologist and passionate about designing life through genetic engineering. She received her Bachelor and Master Degree in Life Science & Technology from Delft University of Technology and Leiden University and is currently pursuing her PhD at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris where she uses synthetic biology to accelerate drug discovery for tuberculosis and develop solutions to fight against the antibiotic resistance crisis.
Her interest for synthetic biology was sparked when in 2010 she participated in the iGEM (Internationally Engineered Machine) competition organized at the MIT. The TU Delft team she was part of developed standardized parts of DNA – biobricks – to transform bacteria into oil digesting cells. Their work was subsequently recognized both nationally and internationally and received several awards.
During iGEM, Nadine began to realize the gap between scientific advances in biotechnology and the importance to improve the public awareness about those developments. Together with fellow student Eva Brinkman she decided to work on bridging that gap by co-founding communication and education agency Science Matters in 2011. At the moment, Science Matters works for leading universities to provide communication training for scientists and develops education to inform and enthuse both children and adults about life sciences.
Her passion for teaching science goes back before she founded Science Matters. Nadine started teaching at the age 16 when she taught biology, physics and chemistry classes at high school Luzac College in the Netherlands. Later, she gave guest lectures on Synthetic Biology at the Royal Art Academy in The Hague, assisted the course for Synthetic Biology at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Paris and has mentored the iGEM Bettencourt Team 2016.
Nadine is also active in the science-startup scene. In 2012, Nadine she became the Dutch chairman of the Kairos Society, a global community to connect innovative young entrepreneurs. More recently, she was appointed as Vice President of Hello Tomorrow, a Paris-based non-profit organization that helps science entrepreneurs in their journey to bringing laboratory inventions to the market. Since 2015, more than 15k science startups have applied to their startup challenges and Hello Tomorrow finalist startups have already raised more than $300M.
Technologies based on engineered living systems radically change the way we manufacture products, feed and cure ourselves. Those who control life, control the future. Synthetic biology holds the key to making technology that is compatible with nature and forces us to rethink the relationship of nature and technology. The digital revolution has enabled a biological revolution that is accelerating faster than ever. Breakthroughs in reading, writing and editing DNA offer new solutions for the production of cleaner fuels, smarter drugs and plants that survive in difficult climates. It’s now up to us to use them wisely.