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California Life Sciences Institute Names 2021 Winner of Bay Area BioGENEius Competition

Aylin Salahifar Advances to the International BioGENEius Challenge

South San Francisco, CA, April 26, 2021 – California Life Sciences Institute (CLSI) on Friday named Carlmont High School 11th grader, Aylin Salahifar, the winner of  CLSI’s 2021 Bay Area BioGENEius Challenge, the premier competition for high school students that recognizes outstanding research and innovation in the biotechnology field. CLSI is the non-profit partner of the California Life Sciences Association (CLSA), and supports the foundations of innovation – workforce development, STEM education and entrepreneurship – that have made California home to the world’s most prominent life sciences ecosystem.

As the Bay Area BioGENEius finalist, Ms. Salahifar will go on compete against students from the U.S. and Canada in the International BioGENEius Challenge, which will take place as a virtual competition over several days in conjunction with the BIO Digital International Convention in June. The projects presented represent a range of biotechnology topics such as healthcare, agriculture, and the environment.

Aylin was selected for her research project on An innovative approach to the planet’s degrading environments: Engineering a novel strain of rhizobacteria to ensure plant productivity under worsening abiotic stress conditions. Second place went to Andrew Liang, a junior from The College Preparatory School for his research on Identification of SARS-CoV-2 Main Protease Inhibitors Utilizing Michael Acceptor Warheads; followed by third-prize winner Alexis MacAvoy, an 10th grader from San Mateo High School, for her work on A New Biofuel: Investigating the Efficiency of Carpobrotus edulis, Kelp, and Walnut Shell Bioethanol in Comparison to Corn Ethanol Using Percent Yield and Mass Fractionation.

Honorable Mentions included: Sahand Adibnia, a junior at Dublin High School, for his research on A Systematic Approach to Assessing the Link between Parkinson’s Disease, Neuromelanin, and Aging using Gene Expression Data; Myung Suh Choi, an 11th grader from Monta Vista High School for her research Modeling ADHD in Drosophila: Investigating the effects of glucose on dopamine production demonstrated by locomotion; and Sanskriti Singh, a 9th grader from BASIS Independent Silicon Valley for her work on A Novel Mask R-CNN Model to Segment Heterogeneous Brain Tumors through Image Subtraction.

In spite of the disruptions posed by the global pandemic, finalists rose to the occasion, conducting outstanding research which they presented at CLSI’s second virtual Bay Area Challenge with the help of its long-time BioGENEius supporter Amgen. “After a year of remote learning and other challenges posed by COVID-19, it was truly impressive to witness the robust and cutting-edge research students still pulled off said CLSI President & CEO, Lori Lindburg. “They also picked up some important skills that will serve them well in their scientific careers: resilience, flexibility, and managing uncertainty.  Nothing can stop them now, and we look forward to watching these future innovators.”

Over 60 students applied to the Bay Area Challenge, with 27 advancing to the competition. Students presented their research over four hours in the morning, then participated in breakout “chats” with Amgen scientists as the judges deliberated, followed by an Awards presentation presided over by Saptarsi Haldar, M.D., VP of Research, Cardiometabolic Disorders at Amgen.

“The Bay Area BioGENEius Challenge continues to shine a light on some of the Bay Area’s most remarkable high school student researchers. The caliber of the student projects is so impressive and holds great promise for the discoveries of tomorrow that will address our globe’s most pressing challenges,” said Haldar, “We’re all so proud to have Aylin represent us in the  International Challenge, one more step in what I’m confident will be a promising and very successful career in science.”

The International BioGENEius Challenge is organized by the Biotechnology Institute. “Our mission is to engage and excite student innovators by creating an environment that allows them to showcase their talents and help accelerate their development as the next-generation of scientists. The BioGENEius Challenges encourage students to apply their scientific knowledge to solve some of society’s most pressing issues through biotechnology, allowing them to see the tremendous potential they have to make change in the world,” said Dr. Lawrence Mahan, President of Biotechnology Institute. “We bring students, mentors and industry leaders together to promote excellence in scientific research from the best and brightest minds in the next generation of biotechnology innovators.”

About California Life Sciences Institute (CLSI)

California Life Sciences Institute (CLSI) supports the foundations of innovation that have made California home to the world’s most prominent life sciences ecosystem. With a focus on the San Francisco Bay Area, CLSI’s mission is to maintain California’s leadership in life sciences innovation through support of entrepreneurship, education and career development. CLSI serves as an accelerator for CARB-X, the world’s largest public-private partnership devoted to early stage antibacterial R&D. CLSI is an affiliate of the California Life Sciences Association (CLSA), which represents California’s leading life sciences organizations. The California Life Sciences Institute is a non-profit 501(c)(3) and was established in 1990 as the BayBio Institute. Learn more at http://califesciencesinstitute.org.

About the Biotechnology Institute

The Biotechnology Institute is an independent, national nonprofit organization dedicated to education about the present and future impact of biotechnology.  Its mission is to engage, excite and educate the public, particularly students and teachers, about biotechnology and its immense potential for solving human health, food and environmental problems.  For more information, visit www.biotechinstitute.org.