For those in the DIYBio community, these are heady days. There are now a handful of fully-equipped public DIY biology and biotechnology laboratories operating in North America. In addition, the number of ideas about how non-professional scientists can contribute to others’ experiments and perform their own experiments is continuing to grow.
DIY Biotech labs:
Perhaps the best known of the DIY facilities, Genspace in Brooklyn, NY uses donated equipment and equipment purchased from Ebay and others to provide users with a fully-functioning genomics laboratory space. See a review of their facilities here:
Located in Sunnyvale, CA, Biocurious self-describes as “a hackerspace for biotech”. Their facilities are on par with Genspace’s, and memberships will run you $100/month, but you get 15% off reagents (for those in the know, the most expensive part of doing any biotech work).
This lab, located in Victoria, BC, Canada, is Canada’s first bio-tech community lab. Again, the lab is membership-supported and like other diyBio labs, Biopsace offers classes to teach you biotech skills.
There is a website dedicated to all things DIYBio, appropriately caled DIYbio. This site lists not only the labs you see above, but other local DIYbio communities and groups interested in started local DIYbio labs. Here in Seattle, we had such a group until recently. It shut down from lack of interest and funding (ironically, Seattle is one of the most biotech-intensive cities in the world. Perhaps everyone here is already professional biotech scientists?!)
There are a number of emerging tools that everyday citizens can use to create amazing biological experiments. One of these recently emerged from Biocurious, a DIY 3D Biological printer made from an ordinary inkjet printer. The system has been tested using E. coli cells and seems to have good resolution. Next stop: DIY kidneys!
Student and Teacher Education facilities:
For those teachers wishing to learn more about modern biotechnology and genomics, Seattle is lucky to have two fully-equipped training labs and mentor programs. The first is Bioquest, run out of Seattle Biomedical REsearch Institute, now called Seattle Biomed. BioQuest offers both student and teacher workshops. The second lab is located at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Institute and is the nexus of the Science Education Partnership, or SEP. SEP offers summer-long teaching mentorship and training opportunities, as well as student biotech education.
I encourage any of you who are interested in learning more to contact the appropriate organization for your location and interests. As operations like DNA sequencing fall in cost, the availability of these labs is expected to grow, but only will if sufficient interest from the public is generated. I believe we need facilities like this in our modern society. the more than all of us learn and know about biotech, the more informed we can be as voters and consumers.