We are all aware of the DIY culture pervasive in computer programming and IT. You are stuck with a piece of code, there are Stack Overflow, GitHub and hundreds of other resources to help you out. There are even groups of electronics hobbyists and mechanical tinkerers who help each other out. Instructables and Spark Fun Learn are two well-known websites to learn about DIY electronics, say building your own robots, drones etc. I even built an RC-IC Car (Remote Controlled Internal Combustion Engine) in my first year with a few of my batchmates following the tutorials on ‘Engineering Explained’ and ‘How Stuffs Work’.
But how about pursuing biology as a hobby? What about hacking biology? How about being a part of the ‘DIY Bio’ movement? Sounds cool!
What Is DIY Bio?
Manu Prakash, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, invented Paperfuge, taking inspiration from a toy ‘Lattu’ in Hindi, otherwise called ‘Whirligig’. With a keen passion for biohacking, the Computer Science graduate from one of India’s prestigious universities went to become a Professor in Bioengineering at Stanford University.
George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, helped pioneer the DIY movement in biology. DIY Bio is an open-science innovation movement that has recently caught a social spring. He believes that the DIY Bio movement will be successful because the
costof both synthesizing and decoding DNA molecules is now falling five times faster than the cost of computing power.
If you are in an engineering school, maybe you would have used one or seen your peers using Arduino microcontrollers to build super cool robots or gadgets of their own. These days school kids have also started to use Arduino microcontrollers, Raspberry Pi and sensors to build uber cool gadgets that can solve a real-world problem. A starter robotic kit costs around $300 and with several resources available on the web, a novice programmer like a school kid can build his own bot without the need of
This is exactly what the ‘DIY Bio’ revolution seeks to achieve. The ‘DIY Bio’ aims to bring non-experts as naive as a high school student to develop new innovative solutions that can disrupt healthcare (biohacking).
How To Promote DIY Bio?
One of the best ways to promote the biohacking is by introducing low-cost biological lab techniques and devices, such as the Paperfuse. OpenPCR (shown above) is one of the many devices that helps in DNA copying at a fraction of a cost of the commercial grade machine. It costs as low as $499.
Today, most of the innovations in Biotech still comes from the research labs or pharmaceutical companies where highly trained experts give their inputs. The DIY culture in Biology will build a new parallel force which doesn’t have enough experience in life science but capable of innovation.
Currently, there isn’t any Biohacking community lab in Europe or Asia like bioCURIOUS. BioCurious is the World’s First Hackerspace for Bio, Built in the Heart of Silicon Valley. This is a community of scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, and amateurs who believe that innovations in biology should be accessible, affordable, and open to everyone. More such community labs need to be introduced to see significant strides in biohacking.
Take a look at the Home Made Centrifuge in the figure below. Attaching this customized plastic test-tube holder with a drill bit makes it a centrifuge costing less than $50. Currently, a commercial grade centrifuge would cost at least $300. If this is not disruption, I don’t know what is.
According to PwC, one of the top-notch consulting firms, Biotechnology
The DIY Culture in biology will help in bring disruptive innovations because people from a non-biology background tend to bring a different perspective.