June 13, 2008

Yesterday I partook in the 2nd ever meeting of the diybio group in Cambridge, MA.

DIYBio The meeting was hosted at BetaHouse this time rather than the less experiment friendly Asgard “irish” pub. I got there early, but soon enough other diybionauts — there is no consensus yet around nomenclature, though biohacker seems to hold most sway — began to filter in. We started by chatting and discussing the proposed activity: the good old party trick of extracting DNA from various things (I posted a very similar protocol in this blog before).

The demographics seems skewed pretty much exclusively towards tech professionals and young academics in their 20’s. The majority don’t have degrees in biology, but obviously, everyone is very much interested in the subject or they wouldn’t be involved. A small transhumanist contingent was also to be found.

When everyone had arrived, we proceeded with the experiment. We used oatmeal, apples, and humans as sources for DNA samples. I was one of the brave few who volunteered their precious genetic data, and I daresay our DNA ended up vastly superior. Either way, it was lots of fun, and in mere minutes we had actually done some biology in a kitchen. Modest beginning foretelling future greatness, perhaps? After we were finished we quickly covered the biological processes involved in our experiment, and sat down to considering the future of the organization.

DIYBio aims to be a beacon of responsible and safe amateur involvement in biotech. A major part of its mission is to provide education and guidance on techniques and procedures. But while pursuing these lofty, and slightly nebulous goals, we will do lots of fun biological stuff, too!

When a $100 Transformation was suggested (i.e. modifying an organism for $100) I replied that it may come closer to $200 in the end, One Transformation Per Child someone quipped in response. A lofty goal, but a worthy one! Another idea floated was to field an iGEM team not backed by an academic institution.

A sort of “minutes” of the meeting can be found on this thread of the diybio google group.

The picture on the left? That’s me with the test tube of human DNA. The DNA is the milky white substance visible between the two layers of liquid in the tube. There is also some DNA attached to the toothpick I am intently examining :)

Don’t phage me, bro!

DIYBio - June 13, 2008 - Michael Katsevman