Joining the family and becoming a family member
My involvement with the AFOB started in 2007 on behalf of Thai Society for Biotechnology (TSB) president Dr. Pichet Itkor. I remembered the first meeting with AFOB. It was 3-day activity during April 26-28, 2007. On the first day, we went to Celltrion. The other two days, we were in the symposium rooms of Regional Bio-Cluster Development and Future World of Biotechnology/Public Awareness for Biotechnology. Even though it was my first time with AFOB, I felt overwhelmed by AFOB's hospitality and information.
In the year after, TSB became a member of AFOB. At the same time that I was elected to be a TSB president. Since then, I have been a permanent member of AFOB and have joined every AFOB Executive Board Meeting in Korea, sometimes in Taiwan, China, or Thailand. Later, the AFOB Executive Board Meetings were assigned during the Asian Congress of Biotechnology (ACB). Thus it is my duty to join the Executive Board Meetings, and ACB also sees my AFOB family. We are very active, taking a turn to host the regional AFOB symposium, ACB, AFOB International Forum, AFOB Summer Forum, AFOB division conference, etc. Many travels, meeting new people, visiting more places, co-organizing more symposiums/workshops have been happening ever since. I have been invited to many conferences as guests or speakers, opening my vision and ideas for my research and TSB society. In the last few years, I have sent my students and TSB students to intern in Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and study Ph.D. in AFOB country members. In the meantime, I have hosted many conferences and invited AFOB members to come to Thailand. As a result, I have seen AFOB members more often here and there. Hence, the bond of AFOB has been gradually strengthening year by year. Until COVID 19 has arrived in 2020, and we cannot have on-site meetings. Then I realize that how much I miss my family.
Family bonding and strength
AFOB is more than the institution because it contains lots of love and care from the members. Family bonding comes when we do activities together. Every time we join the AFOB academic activities, we join the combined social events. In the clever arrangement, the social events are excursions to Labs, universities, pilot plants, or other academic-related activities. These social activities take away our mind from the conference rooms to new experiences and networks. New ideas, new friends, new culture, a new climate, and a new atmosphere with a lot of talking, eating, and drinking are coming throughout our activities. Professor Jung Keug Park mentioned "AFOBeer" to everyone. Finally, AFOBeer has become the quotation of the AFOB meeting. Thus, bonding and strength are imprinted in us without notice and even more potent. Later on, I cooperate with AFOB members in Mainland China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Nothing will be better than working with partners who know you well and speak your language under the AFOB family and communication.
In the beginning, Korea supported all activities, but later, other country members contributed more. We have started from 13 country members and now become 14: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mainland China, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. When time goes by, we are stronger. Each country has its setup, i.e., Regional AFOB Branch Office (RBO), new research centers, new biotech start-up companies, etc. In the meantime, each member might have a bilateral agreement with other country members. For instant, TSB signed the MOU with the Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering Society of Taiwan (BEST) and AFOB Malaysia Chapter. Moreover, the collaboration between country members has occurred in different forms through conferences, symposiums, workshops, training, and now virtual conferences and online workshops. Thus, AFOB is united to become one.
COVID 19 pandemic changes us to some extends. It limits our activities and behavior. In 2020, AFOB seemed to slow down. The last and most significant meeting was in Taiwan at ACB 2019. Not much communication was happening in 2020, but it is now resumed this year. Undoubtedly, COVID 19 pandemic cannot stop us. However, each country is getting back to its capacity for new-normal online activities. I want to thank Professor Wen-Chien Lee, President of AFOB, who has never given up. Since 2020, he has started the virtual discussion panels and meetings and continued this year. Incredible, AFOB is organizing 19 activities this year under the uncertainty of COVID 19. Please visit our website and choose the ones to join. No need to mention now we are busier organizing and attending the activities without boundaries and culture.
A new era of AFOB has arrived. First, on-site activities change to online. Getting to know people at the meeting changes to the introductory slides on the AFOB website and newsletters. Communication among us is in Line, Wechat, Whatsapp, Facebook, Zoom, Google meet, etc. COVID 19 brings the new AFOB culture. Now I even meet my family more often through online meetings. In the past, we could not arrange 12 division conferences simultaneously, but it is happening this year at the Virtual AFOB conference, November 1-4, 2021. Any mission impossible will be possible now with the solution from 14 country-member families. Life has started with the family, and the supports from the family has achieved success. Thanks to my AFOB family, and thank you. We are stronger because we are together.