Household biohacking coming to a neighborhood near you!

Alright, the title is a little of a stretch. However, the efforts of Mackenzie Cowell and Jason Bobe have demonstrated that hacking biology can and may some day become as common as hacking away on your computer (think positive!).

A recent article in the Boston Globe lists some of the issues related to doing biological work from home and how there are rules and regulations that need updating and revision.

Unlike hacking on your computer, biological work usually generates waste that may (or may not) be harmful and work is not as “straight-forward” as coding.

The movement is getting much of its steam from synthetic biology, a field of science that seeks to make working with cells and genes more like building circuits by creating standardized biological parts.

Although it’s not as simple as it’s portrayed, synthetic biology does allow for genetic transformation of bacteria and other types of cells with great ease, however it should not be something taken lightly and performed by amateurs. Or should it?

What is your opinion about DIY Bio? I’d love to hear your opinion.

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  1. Sung W Lim’s avatar

    DIY biology is a natural outcome of the technology itself. There will be some version of DIY biology in the near future, whether it happens behind closed doors or within supervised mid/high school labs.

    It’s all the more reason to speed up the study into the nature of DIY technology. We need more abstractions that make it easy for people to approach the science and technology of the DIY biology (to certain extent, at least). We need broad range of tools and tutorials that are designed to be ‘safe’ (not leak out randomly into the environment and propagate, through combination of protocols and prefabricated tools) and easy enough for the laymen to do their version of the ‘hello world’ programming within a week or two of experience. Despite the relative immaturity and complexity of the field of synthetic biology itself, I believe these things will be possible to achieve with a dedicated effort of a coordinated group of people…

    It is also worth noting that the concept of opensource technology/science is fundamental to any significant vision of a DIY future.


  2. JonathanCline’s avatar

    I would like to meet these diybio guys and see what they are really doing. Based solely on what I have seen online, the “DIY biology in the garage” is far, far, far from being close to real. The hype is interesting however.. I think the need to secure funding and venture capital has created quite an exaggerated momentum in biology.

    “”"It is also worth noting that the concept of opensource technology/science is fundamental to any significant vision of a DIY future.”"”

    I don’t see how that can be the case, at all. Historically, DIY kits are proprietary! They are not open source. In fact, it can be shown that open sourcing such as “GNU viral license” actually slows things down because the possibility of capitalist profits are removed.. so the hobby industry is hampered from lack of storefronts & vendors.

    Look back at the DIY movement in amateur radio, for example (HAM operators, etc). All those radio kits were proprietary and sometimes incompatible with each other. i.e. You couldn’t take the schematic from a Radio Shack (or whomever) ham radio and connect it arbitrarily to a Fisher schematic..

    And the DIY movement in personal data telecommunications, back in the 80′s, was based on proprietary modems and BBS’s.. not standard at all! It flourished quite well, too. The old “modem baudrate wars” actually spurred innovation, because the vendors could attempt to differentiate their designs — and win consumer / hobbyist dollars.

    So anyway. Home hobbyist beer-making isn’t standardized, and there’s no reason why synthetic biology home hobbyist labs would be either..



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