Pioneering bio hacker group finds home

Oct 18, 2011 by Nancy Owano report

(PhysOrg.com) -- A garage lab for research in biotechnology seeking bigger digs for an open science lab has opened its doors in Sunnyvale, California. Instead of sponsorship from big corporations and government, the garage-spirited fundraisers turned to Kickstarter, where 239 supporters donated $35,319 to get Eri Gentry and her team out of the garage and into a well-equipped lab space of 2,400 square feet. The lab is called BioCurious and its creed is to celebrate the hacker ethic, the desire to tinker, deconstruct, and rebuild, applied to biotechnology.

After meeting for a year in a garage, the new space opened with an all-volunteer staff. Membership is $150 a month for people of all levels of experience, which gives them access to equipment, , to follow biotech pursuits.

Their governing principle is that “We believe that innovations in biology should be accessible, affordable, and open to everyone.” BioCurious is reaching out to entrepreneurs, engineers, aspiring biochemists, and just about anyone wanting to do hands-on scientific experiments. Some of the equipment in the new lab facility was donated to the collective, and they also bought some equipment at auctions. The lab has gel electrophoresis equipment, incubators, microscopes, fridge, freezer, pipettes and other equipment. BioCurious offers classes on such topics as personal genomics, hardware hacking, and a “Business of Biotech” lecture series. BioCurious speaks in plain, friendly language, inviting the public to “make genetically engineered bacteria, sequence DNA, find the tools to get your bio-project growing, or make friends with amateurs and experts in the community.”

Executive director Eri Gentry said she was inspired by her own experiences at HackerDojo, a San Francisco community of engineers, artists and other creatives who use the working and social facility in Mountain View, California. “You could tell right away that you could ask anyone for help. You could ask stupid questions. I realized there that this culture could be created. And it could be done for science.”

A hacker after all is anyone that is skilled at what he or she does, As useful as the machines and tools are for those who cannot afford more expensive laboratory space, “the cool hangout space” at BioCurious is the component that most captures what BioCurious is all about. “Our hangout space is the same sort of place for computer hackers,” she said. At BioCurious, you feel the same kind of “awesomeness” from sharing ideas and enthusiasm, she added. “Brainstorming turns into something when you put a lab next to it.”

Gentry is nonetheless prepared for doubters who think a citizen-science construct is crazy."'You’re letting people off the street do science? You’re kidding me?' And will come up with ridiculous ideas of people cloning other humans or infecting people with Ebola virus,“ she said, in an interview.

Over the past year, however, plans were put in place. The BioCurious volunteers established a non-profit business entity, held meet-ups, acquired donated , evaluated lab spaces, and established safety and waste disposal procedures.

Explore further: Synthetic biology on ordinary paper, results off the page

More information: biocurious.posterous.com/biocu… he-next-big-thing-to

Related Stories

China to launch space station module prototype

Aug 17, 2011

China’s space program is in the news again, this time with unconfirmed reports that the Tiangong 1 space lab may be launching into orbit sometime this year – possibly later this month.  Previous ...

Materials face ultimate test in space

Apr 29, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Mark Hersam of Northwestern University will be more interested than most Americans when the space shuttle Endeavour lifts off for the last time Friday, April 29. Six little pieces of himself and his research ...

Watch how curiosity will land on Mars

Apr 06, 2011

Entry, descent and landing is the big moment for any Mars lander mission, and the big honkin’ Mars Science Lab and its sky-crane landing system will truly be unique. This brand new video from the Jet Propulsion Lab sh ...

DNA 'off switch' may reverse premature aging

Jun 15, 2011

The secret to preventing or reversing premature aging may be found in a DNA “off switch” that humans share with common yeast, according to new research from the University of Toronto.

Virtual reality in a Michigan Tech lab

Mar 07, 2011

I am in Room 314 in Rekhi Hall, arms spread wide, tippy-toeing across a rickety board and trying oh-so-hard not to fall into a gaping hole beneath my feet. One misstep and I join the dead cow at the bottom ...

Recommended for you

Team advances genome editing technique

Oct 21, 2014

Customized genome editing – the ability to edit desired DNA sequences to add, delete, activate or suppress specific genes – has major potential for application in medicine, biotechnology, food and agriculture.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Hev
5 / 5 (1) Oct 18, 2011
this sort of thing has been going on anyway - blokes in sheds - corporations can't manage without them
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Oct 18, 2011
Me likee. We have the Moog foundation that recently opened something similar here in Asheville NC. Great way for interesting collaborations to bloom.