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Funding Models for DIY biologists

December 14, 2012

Jason Bobe

Over at Nature’s SpotOn, Rayna Stamboliyska asks the question: “How do we make DIYBio sustainable?”

Check out her review of funding strategies in the DIYbio community to-date, including:

  • membership fees (e.g. Biocurious)
  • fee for service (e.g. workshops at Genspace)
  • grant funding (e.g. MadLab UK)
  • crowdfunding (e.g. Open PCR)
  • commercialization (e.g. Amplino)

Thanks Rayna!


Post a comment
  1. Mitch D Day #
    February 7, 2013

    I think there’s one more item that belongs on the list that wasn’t explicitly mentioned here or in the linked article. Don’t forget the possible value of partnerships with existing academic institutions. These institutions can help with fundraising through grants and provide access to equipment and expertise.

    I understand that the DIYBio ethos eschews traditional structures and is trying to make an end-run around sclerotic institutions. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the open source movement was nurtured within our existing academic institutions. Creativity can flourish in the most hostile of environments.

    The spirit of openness is still defended pretty vigorously on most campuses in spite of the increasingly stifling bureaucracy. Academic institutions are well-equipped to soothe nervous granters and the usually onerous overhead rates are negotiable.

    It’s always possible to use an affiliation with a university to funnel grant funds to a non-profit hackerspace. If the work will be performed in an off-campus space – thereby using few real U resources – and the relationship between the academic and DIYBio partners is solid, most of the funds can go to the actual work. It all comes down to charm and trust.

    My own university (U of Idaho, a Moo-U in N. Idaho) is opening up some of it’s property downtown for shared workspaces and they are wide-open to suggestions for sustainable ways to stimulate our modest research ecosystem.

    The incentive for academic researchers to enter into such partnerships is clear – free labor and publications. Any graduate student can explain how much the system depends on that! At some point, DIYBio hardware will need to be validated against the commercial equivalents if we hope to produce truly useful results.

    My two yuan,


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