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Weekly news

August 7, 2014

Cat Ferguson

Hi everybody – sorry to say, but we’re starting off on a sad note this week.

Stem cell researcher commits suicide


Japanese researcher Yoshiki Sasai hung himself on Tuesday, a few months after two papers he supervised were retracted from Nature. The two papers claimed that dipping cells in acid for half an hour would revert them to stem cells. Many labs, including biohacker labs, tried the method and failed to recreate the results. The journal took note and pulled the papers. Though Sasai was cleared of misconduct by his school, his suicide note indicated he felt responsible for the work he supervised.

Retraction Watch has a meditation on media coverage surrounding retractions, and what it means for scientists on a personal level, if you’re interested in reading more.

NIH runs a 3D printing exchange


The National Institutes for Health runs a database of 3D printing designs, including art, educational models, and lab gear. The site also boasts a section full of tutorials to help people learn about the technology, and a discussion forum, to encourage conversations with users (although not a lot of people have taken them up on that yet).

The other major database of 3D models, Thingverse, is much larger, but doesn’t have the same focus on biology.

DARPA is funding synbio research


The defense agency has an odd relationship with hackers, awarding grants to hackerspaces and other non-academic groups. DARPA has just announced it will be funding synthetic bio research as part of its Biological Robustness in Complex Settings program. However, it’s unclear if the program will apply to independent researchers or community labs.

DIYBio works pretty well with the government, including holding joint meetings with the FBI.  So it might be nice for biohackers to get a little green from the Man. If you look into this further, let us know what you find out.


Get in touch via Twitter or email with anything you hope I’ll cover next week. See you soon!

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