Feeling Biocurious? How To Get Your DIY Bio On

Do it yourself biology at Biocurious.

Do-it-yourself biology at Biocurious. Photo credit: Maria Chavez.

Let’s say you want to do a little “do-it-yourself” biological tinkering. Maybe you have an idea to make bacteria that can sense or even break down mercury in the environment. Or you want to attract funding for your start up with a few choice experiments. Or you just always wanted to do some biology. Where can you turn?

For people like me, it’s easy. I work for Stanford’s Department of Genetics and so if I were so inclined, I’d have access to the labs there. But this obviously isn’t a typical situation.

For everyone else (at least here in the Bay Area), there is an organization called Biocurious. They are an open lab located in Sunnyvale where you can go and do some biology experiments.

For a monthly fee (currently around $100/month for a year subscription) they provide the equipment, a lab bench and office space. You also get free classes from experts to help you get started.

This lab space is great for folks with some previous lab experience and/or who have an idea of their own they’d like to get started on. The equipment is all there for them to get started and they even get 15% discounts on any reagents they need. Stuff like restriction enzymes, Taq polymerase, nucleotides, etc.

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But at least for right now, the space/concept isn’t as useful for the uninitiated. If you just want to come and play, it can be hard to know what to do. Sort of like wanting to design a mobile app but having no experience and having never used one!

One thought I had was maybe membership can come with an optional, relatively simple project that can be done to get the member’s feet wet. Maybe using the mixable and matchable bits of DNA from BioBricks to create a unique, artificial gene. That way the member could create something new but not have it be some cookbook, high school experiment.

This was just one idea off the top of my head. The folks at Biocurious know this is a problem and are brainstorming solutions. Can you think of ways that might help a newbie get started? What would it take to entice you to come join the fun?

Great interview with Eri Gentry, founder of Biocurious