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Hump day news

July 23, 2014

Cat Ferguson

Photo via Wikimedia

Hi folks! Happy Wednesday. Hope you’re ready for some DIYBio news, because I’ve got two weeks worth – I was away at the ostrich races.

Make assay plates from bubble wrap


Sick of spending cash on assay plates just to throw them away after one use? A Harvard scientist has figured out a way to turn everyone’s favorite packing material into sterile wells using clear nail polish and a syringe. Since the insides of the bubbles are sterile, scientists inject the materials and paint over the hole with a little nail hardener as sealant.

From the New Scientist article:

The team successfully ran blood tests for anaemia and diabetes, cultured the common food-borne bacteria Escherichia coli and raised the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, which is widely used as a model organism in biology experiments.

Cheap and easy, it’s perfect for DIYBio. Just save me some to pop.

Space plants out of Genspace?


Genspace scientist Yuriy Fazylov is running a crowd-funding campaign on, trying to raise money to make plants that could survive the radiation bombardment in space.

Using genes from fungi that create pigments to block radiation, Fazylov hopes to create plants that could colonize a spaceship – or, closer to home, a radiation-heavy place like Chernobyl.

Open-source automation bot launches


The OpenTrons team is building robots to make your science easier. It just launched a new one: BioBot 1.0, a liquid handling robot to save your pipetting hand some work and ensure accuracy. It hooks up to your hand pipette. Watch the video here:

From team member Will Canine:

We are hosting the BOM, control app, assembly instructions, and getting-started guide on Synbiota: Check out how you can make one yourself for under $2000USD!

Hardware: All the parts for a DIY BioBot are off the shelf (buy them from OpenBuilds or Inventables, etc) or 3D printed (print in ABS — stronger than PLA and autoclavable), so you can make it all yourself. You use your own hand micropipette for the liquid handling — with most pipette brands, every size, any number of channels will fit in the BioBot with minimal modification.

Electronics: BioBot uses the TinyG motor controller, an awesome piece of tech from Syntheos, to run the robot’s six stepper motors.

Software: We are using Cordova for this BETA version of the OpenTrons control app: HTML5 interface on top of an Android plug-in sends the TinyG motor controller JSON wrapped g-code over Bluetooth serial. The source code is right here.

Get in touch with the OpenTrons team for more information.

DIYBio meetup in Boston


Student Joshua Elkington is disappointed in you, Boston. He’s hosting a meetup at Harvard on August 16, from 2-4 p.m. to discuss “current trends, emerging tech, and future directions.” So if you’re in the neighborhood, give him a shout!

Chemical calligraphy


Molecular structures can be elegant, but it’s hard to make them beautiful with traditional methods of drawing. Pen and paper hacker Matthew DeBlock has come up with a more artistic alphabet to describe the building blocks of our world.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.51.16 PMTake a look at the how-to here, and let me know if this stroke of genius works for you.




That’s all for this week! As usual, email or tweet me with your news and views.

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