So, I gave a talk at the Synbio Future conference in Cork, which was organised by SynbioAxlr8r and brought in some top talent in Synthetic Biology to speak about their work and the prospects for the future of the field, and Ireland’s role in it. My own talk was in the “translation” block, so I tried to discuss my experiences making a business out of Synbio. At the time, I was trying to raise money for IndieBB (an effort which failed), but I tried to keep that out of the talk except where it was relevant.
There is a common conceit among we DIYbio enthusiasts, namely to suggest that one could opt to create “glow-in-the-dark yoghurt” using DIYbio-oriented techniques as a nigh trivial matter. Indeed, this conceit led to my recently being queried by twitter and email about the possibility; where are the guides and how-tos, if it is so trivial? While a conceit it may be to suggest that glow-in-the-dark yoghurt would be trivial, that’s not to say it’s at all out of reach to the dedicated biohacker.
I was just reading through this really encouraging sum-up of progress on preventing and treating HIV: http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110720/hl_afp/healthaids On the whole, it’s great news. I mean, as much as I dislike making circumcision mainstream, if it saves lives in a continent where AIDS is at full epidemic strength, it’s a no-brainer. I just hope we can move past it with more advanced methods at some point in the future. However, the bit that caught my attention was the ongoing (though low-level) debate as to whether a practical cure for HIV will ever be possible.
Hey all, Tomorrow is the last session of the first biohacking workshops in Ireland. It’s been awesome fun (even though much of the hastily prepared stuff didn’t work as intended!) and really informative to me and hopefully my excellent participants. Sadly a lot of people couldn’t make the weekdays due to pernicious blights such as employment, but tomorrow might be a chance to get a more diverse group together before it’s all over.
Hey all, Over at IndieBiotech.com I’ve shared some of what I’m up to, and I may as well mirror it here! In a nutshell, I’m preparing for a five-day course of Biohacking workshops in the Science Gallery in Dublin, starting Tuesday and ending Saturday afternoon. I’ve had to prepare some mad inventions to make it happen due to equipment restrictions, which you might find amusing or exciting. The aim of the workshops is to deliver a crashcourse in literacy and skills in biohacking; you should come out of the workshops with a basic understanding of how DNA, RNA and Protein work, how bacteria work, and how to design and build your own GMOs.
Needless to say for many of my visitors, doubtless directed here by a surprisingly popular video of a DNA extraction I performed on a Banana at Mindfield, the event was a big hit for DIYbio/Amateur Biotech. Indeed, it was a hit from almost every angle I can personally imagine, although I’ll save a full round-up of events for my personal blog (my mind was somewhat blown open by the festival). Here, I’ll just share the highlights that might be relevant to DIYbioers.
Some time ago I placed an order for a labour of love of mine: IndieBB. It’s a plasmid I designed to make cloning in Bacillus subtilis easier, faster and more reliable. Crucially, it’s also supposed to make the whole process antibiotic-free and DIYbio friendly. It’s going to be the flagship product of Indie Biotech if it works, and if it sells well enough I’m planning to offer additional cassettes that extend and enhance the plasmid, allowing customers to start performing practical synthetic biology with a minimal lab setup requirement.
In case it’s up your alley, I’ll be giving a talk on Garage Biotech and DIYbio at Barcamp Cork on the 20th. It’s a free conference, it’s held in the webworks in Cork City Center, and there’ll be a ton of other interesting talks. My own talk will be a 35 minute affair, and I’ll be covering the “why” of Synthetic Biology, some crucial elements of Bacterial Physiology (specifically B.subtilis) you’ll need to know to get started, and some information on how _you_ can set up and get started performing synthetic biology experiments at home or with friends.
I have just read a pair of papers, both of which outline theoretical methods of creating synchronised oscillation circuits in bacterial cells. Synchronising Genetic Relaxation Oscillators by Intercell Signalling Modelling a Synthetic Multicellular Clock: Repressilators Coupled by Quorum Sensing In essence, the idea is to make bacteria who “blink” as whole colonies, by creating and destroying a fluorescent protein in an on-off manner at the same time as a group. This has been done in single cells, but as you might imagine the pattern of on-off gets lost in the crowd of a whole colony of millions, so the effect isn’t clear to the naked eye.