Skip to content

Posts from the ‘diybio’ Category

Tuesday news, just under the wire

June 24, 2014

Cat Ferguson

It’s still technically Tuesday, which means it’s time for a weekly recap! Not much going on this week; email or tweet me with any news you’ve got.

Hello world: first DIYBio space in South America


Synthetic Biotechnology Research, or syntechbio, introduced itself to the list this week. They’re working on a bunch of projects, including one called Hibrida. Their description:

Our first project explores the development of reality enhancers. Lets enhance our human capacities and become superheroes, enhance our vision capacity, our listening skills. We are going to prototype open source electrical equipment to do all this and explore the plasticity of the biological material to expand our interaction with the environment.

The group has already finished several projects on genomics. They manage the São Paulo University iGEM team, and have a diverse range of interests, from nanotech to astrobiology. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next!

A reminder – if you’re looking for a local group, we’ve got just the place for you. Head over to our list of locals. And if you want to be listed on there, shoot the group an email!

Dutch report on DIYBio in the Netherlands


It’s all in Dutch, which I don’t speak, so I’ll let Dutch citizen scientist Pieter van Boheemen explain the report:

The report consists of a characterization of DIYBio along four quadrants: hobbyism, activism, art and science. It’s based on interviews, a workshop and literature research. Next, it describes the tools, methods and materials; biosafety and biosecurity; and attempts to characterize the (future) social implications of the movement.

The chairman of the advisory committee has send the report to the State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment. In his letter he basically states that DIYBio has the potential to contribute to education and bridging the gap between science and society. He says it serves as an inspiration for innovation. He finds the likelihood of biosecurity issues small. He asks the government to provide easy accessible information on GMO regulations and biosafety guidelines to prevent accidents, referring to the “ask a biosafey expert” service in the USA.

To keep the tradition of weird animal links alive, here is a bear climbing a rock wall like a boss.

Double trouble: two week news round-up

June 17, 2014

Cat Ferguson

Hi guys! I am traveling across the country with my dog in tow, so you’ll have to excuse my quirky schedule. To make up for it, here’s what a guinea pig looks like when you shave it.

Freeze your teeth, live forever


The pulp from the middle of your teeth is rich in stem cells. According to intrepid DIYBio-er Andreas Stuermer, aka Mega, neither in-vitro fertilization banks nor the Red Cross will freeze your wisdom teeth, should you decide to try and preserve the stem cells. However, if you can convince your dentist to save them, and stomach carrying home what I can only imagine would be a pretty gross-looking biohazard bag, Transcriptic will freeze them in -80 degrees C for $10.80/year each. How viable will they be?  In dogs, at least, if you harvest the stem cells from pulp and inject them into a hollowed-out tooth, they’ll fill the tooth back in with viable tissue, including blood vessels and nerves. No word on how well they survive a deep-freeze, though.

June events at Boston Open Source Science Lab


The lovely and over-achieving Avery Louie hosted Biotech 101 and Arduino-for-bio nerds at weirdo collective Sprout, in Somerville Mass., last week and this week. If you’re just hearing about this now, you’ve missed out on the biotech crash-course, but you can get an Arduino education for a couple more days – for more info, email Avery at inactive.e(at) And keep your eyes peeled for more events coming soon!

Free biosafety advice kits available to community labs


From Jason Bobe, all-knowing founder of

We are offering a free biosafety advice kits for community labs based in the United States. Each kit includes a poster and a magnet featuring awesome artwork by the llustrator Himanshu Sharma (, as well as a printed copy of a recent report about the DIYbio community (Here is a PDF of 7 myths & realities).

Here is a pic:

yes, please, ask


Want a kit? Please follow the link below and give us some info and we’ll ship you a kit. 1 kit per community lab. Don’t belong to a community lab, but still want a kit? Outside the U.S.? Stay tuned, we plan to make these available to individual practitioners and international folks at a later time.

Sign-up here.

Go forth and be safe!

Crowd-funded plant science and a Reddit AMA


Researchers are crowd-funding their project to sequence the genomes of a symbiotic plant/cynobacteria team. They talk about it on their Reddit AMA, too. Azolla, a family of ferns that live in water, tend to be super-invasive, because they grow fast and almost anywhere it’s reasonably warm. Rice farmers grow it along with their crop, because tucked away in the leaves is a nitrogen-fixing bacteria that makes the plant’s food for it. Knowing how the plant and bacteria work together could be beneficial for other food crops, possibly reducing reliance on artificial nitrogen fertilizer.

On their website, the researchers claim, “Because it is classified as a “lowly fern,” Azolla has been sidelined in plant genome studies. Repeated appeals to granting agencies for funding to unlock the know-how embodied by this superorganism have been met with responses like “too unconventional” or “too risky.”” Not the most auspicious start, but hey, lots of good science is considered kind of crazy in the beginning. Maybe the Power of the Crowd will save the world, after all.

How do you keep motivated?


Whether you’re going through a quarter-life crisis or just getting bummed out by an experiment that you can’t make work, check out this discussion of what makes the DIYBio community tick, in good times and bad.

Cheap, open source bioreactor in the works


Food Hacking Base in Hamburg, Germany is working on an easy to make, easy to use incubator for fermentation projects. If you’re interested in helping out, email Frantisek Algoldor Apfelbeck.

Hello world: DIYBio sets up shop in Paris


French community lab La Paillasse just opened their new biohacking space in the center of Paris. The labs are in the basement, affectionately called the caves because they’re build from “ancient stone.” They’re averaging an event or meeting every other day, so if you’re lucky enough to be in the City of Lights you definitely want to check it out. And they’re crowd-funding to support the new space, so if you’ve got some change, drop it here.

Amplino selected for social-impact incubator


Amplino, a startup that makes cheap, portable qPCR machines for lab diagnostics in poor areas, got tapped by Pricewaterhousecoopers for their Social Impact Lab. They’ll get money, space, and advice on turning their project into a profitable business.

KiloBaser, a new way to synthesize DNA?


An Austrian group is working on a cheap, open source DNA synthesizer “based on microfluidic and magnetic technology.” Few details available, but they’ve got some social media links up:



That’s it for this week, folks! Email or tweet me with whatever you want to see here next week.

And here’s a bonus-bonus: what does the width of a horse butt have to do with space ships? A whole lot! (Hat tip Avery Louie, of course.)


News you can use, week three

May 27, 2014

Cat Ferguson

Our microbiota, ourselves


Most of us know by now that we’ve got ten times more microbial cells in our body than human cells. Those bugs, collectively known as a microbiome, play a major role in our biological processes, and not just digestion. Scientists are looking to the composition of the microbiome for answers about illness ranging from obesity to schizophrenia.

Naturally, DIYBiologists want to characterize the creepy crawlies in and on them. What’s the best way to do it? There are some homebrewed options in the discussion, but your best bet might be to go through the bacterial equivalent of 23andMe: startup uBiome will sequence the bugs in your nose, mouth, skin, genitals, and feces for $89 (sample FAQ: “Will my gut sample smell? Will the mail carrier get mad at me for stinking up the place?”). American Gut is a non-profit citizen science project doing the same thing, i.e. collecting thousands of bacterial samples from various orifices and comparing them. American Gut will run you $99, but you can also send in samples from pets.

Pocket IR spectrometer exists


Massively over-funded Kickstarter + TechCrunch Disrupt demo + fancy iOS apps = a recipe for blog articles calling your toy/tool/pocket-sized object a “game changer.” So, here is a tiny IR spec, which shines an infrared light on an object and, based on how the light is absorbed, can give you pretty good sense of the molecular makeup of the sample. Early adopters will no doubt dedicate themselves towards scanning everything within arms’ reach and carefully inputting information to go along with the scan, building a database for the IR signatures of foods, pets, medicines, gadgets, and loved ones.

9,500 people think it’s worth $2 million in funding, probably thanks to both the artfully shot Kickstarter video and how much it reminds them of that thing from Star Trek. Their promo material says it can tell you if an avocado is ripe without having to touch it, the nutritional facts on cheese so you don’t have to read the label, and at one point in the video it identifies an apple as “fruit.”

No, ok, I’m being a spoilsport, and it is pretty cool living in the future. Can this thing be useful for DIYBio? Well, maybe. Our intrepid Google Group writers are mostly as curmudgeonly as me, but one brave man suggests it might be good for telling if your media is stale, if your yogurt culture is still good, or which poorly labeled Petri dish is which. If you get one, feel free to write and tell me why I’m wrong!

Ryan Bethencourt is blogging about biohackers again


Counter Culture Labs co-founder, Berkeley Biolabs CEO, and professional Brazilian model Ryan Bethencourt wrote an article championing “the rise of biohackers,” which you should go read if only to scrub your mind of my cranky cynicism. On the email list, he has a pretty interesting run-down of successful DIYBio projects, including Berkeley Biolabs, a biohacker accelerator he started with some other BioCurious alums.

BlogRoll blog roll blo groll

We’re putting together a list of active DIYBio-related blogs, so if you want to add yours/argue about what constitutes active/check out some excellent DIYBio projects and writing, head right this way and give a shout.


As usual, email me, tweet me, or send a rock-climbing cat to find me with the news you want to see here next week. 

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!

DIYbio News Round-up

January 16, 2012

Jason Bobe

The DIYbio community has been featured in several major news outlets recently.  Here is a round-up, with links to featured individuals and community labs:

%d bloggers like this: