I’m going to talk about science. Citizen science, open, community science. The typical response I get? Hands up: “I’m not a scientist.” And me? That’s OK, neither am I. So let’s continue. I’m Eri, founder of the world’s first hackerspace for biotech, BioCurious, where we believe that innovations in biology should. My journey to this point took a few twists and turns that I’ll share, leading up to what we’ve done at BioCurious, why we’ve done it, and how you can get started on your own bio journey
Remember those pictures they made us draw in school of scientists? I used to think scientists were quiet people with glasses, who never talked to anyone or did anything fun. I wanted to be a scientist when I was a kid. And I WAS the quiet kid with glasses, But, as I grew older, I realized I didn’t want to be “stuck” in a lab. I wanted to be a people person, so I put the idea of being a scientist out of my head and kept it as a hobby for all these years. Most people have the wrong idea about science. They think it’s a pursuit of geeks who live in their own worlds. Just look at what Ashley, a 7th grader in Illinois had to say.
Here’s what James had to say AFTER meeting real scientists. EVERY kid should have the chance to be around real scientists. They ARE real people. They have a lot of fun.
It took me ages to realize that. I used to be caught up in the same pursuit of every econ major at Yale. Be an investment banker and make a lot of money. However, along the way, I’d grown the desire to positively change the world. This seemed in conflict with my career goals. I needed more. I started volunteering at a lab, where, for the first time, I got to be around real scientists.And everything changed.They were not the scientists I pictured when I was a kid. In these folks, I saw passion. I saw creativity. I saw the same traits I saw in the artists and the hackers I had been drawn to my whole life. WHY? They are the change makers. These are the people who shape the world. Who innovate. These people would change the world in a way that I wanted to be a part of. Within a couple months, I decided to do what clearly mattered. Science. I started a nonprofit research company with my friend John. A friend of ours had died of cancer, unable to receive a new treatment in the US. We decided to pick up on the treatment he was supposed to receive. We made a list of stuff we needed and realized a lot of this stuff was being gotten rid of at companies. Thanks to big guns like GS, the world was in recession and we were able to pick up equipment at bargain basement prices from companies liquidating stock.
The kind of people who made their own equipment when they didn’t have enough money to buy it new.For example, this incubator shaker to keep samples mixed at a constant temperature. Powered by a fan motor, with an additional fan utilized when the motor began to overheat
The kind of people who made their own equipment when they didn’t have enough money to buy it new. For example, this clean bench we made out of walmart supplies for $125. My 1 great contribution to science was suggesting a hepa filter to keep the environment clean after seeing one in a skymall catalog, as well as providing the blue bin, which previously held my clothes.Within a couple months of being around this awesome, I decided to change my life to be about what clearly mattered. Science. A researcher friend and I started a nonprofit research company called Livly. A friend of ours had died of cancer, unable to receive a new treatment in the US. We decided to pick up on the treatment he was supposed to receive. We made a list of stuff we needed and realized a lot of this stuff was being gotten rid of at companies. Thanks to big guns like GS, the world was in recession and we were able to pick up equipment at bargain basement prices from companies liquidating stock.We could afford the equipment on our own but, looking around for lab space, we found we’d have to pay 1 to $6k a month per person for space, simply too much for us. So, out of necessity – to keep the research alive – we did it in the garage.
For example, this clean bench we made out of walmart supplies for $125. My 1 great contribution to science was suggesting a hepa filter to keep the environment clean after seeing one in a skymall catalog, as well as providing the blue bin, which previously held my clothes.
We made it fun. This is us after flying to LA to pick up liquidated equipment
And we made it home.
Why in a garage? We knew how to build a lab. We could acquire the tools and research inputs to do our work. And the world wasn’t ready for a small shop.
Thank God for DIYbio– a 2000+ group of biologists, engineers, hackers, musicians, artists and entrepreneurs making tools like
The spiker box measures neurons and can be used on your laptop or iphone. Tim and Greg created this $50 tool after realizing the technology was simple enough for kids to use, but required them to be in a PhD program to access. These days, Tim and Greg show kids as young as 4 how to do neuroscience. Here’s me cutting the legs off a cockroach. FOR SCIENCE! It’s OK insect lovers. The legs grow back.
These tools were built for a purpose. When tools weren’t accessible or affordable, these great folks simply made what they needed. And they went a step further. They made them available to others. Now, think about the potential research their tools enable. Nanotech, neuroscience, DNA analysis, cell work. At a fraction of a fraction of the traditional cost. There are labs in the US that can’t afford to buy these items off the shelf and areas around the world where there are no labs. If we have a host of hackers building tools and making them available, we enable biotech without borders. What a great thing.Introduce my role in science has grown to be that of community organizer. I love highlighting awesome people and creating community around science. For the past year and a half I have been inviting people like those you’ve just seen to speak at BioCurious meetups in the garage. Demand grew until we became the largest DIYbio regional group in the world, at just over 500 people.
I always thought this stuff was amazing. But I found that the creators didn’t always think so. You can see that these were used for a functional purpose, not for beauty, not for “awesomeness.” However, as soon as I met these biohackers, I wanted to tell people about them. Leading me to my role in science, which has been in bringing people together. Highlighting the people who really really deserve it. And I started bringing people like this to BioCurious meetups in the garage. Demand quickly increased. Today, Our community stands at over 500, making us the world’s largest diybio local group.When demand outpaced what we were able to supply, it required us to think bigger. Simply put, we needed a bigger garage
Well, we couldn’t afford it, but the community was there for us. They allowed us to crowdfund $35,000, helping us create our dream of the first hackerspace for biotech
And as a community based organization, we raised money from the crowd, using Kickstarter to raise more than $35,000.In the ensuing months, till today, we worked on building a labspace for the people, with the mission statement: We believe innovations in biology should be accessible, affordable and open to everyone.We’re building a community lab for amateurs, inventors, entrepreneurs, and anyone who wants to experiment with friends.Our mission, in other words, is to create a modern day coffeehouse and pub (with a lab added) where great thinkers and doers of old would meet to discuss their ideas and what they could do about them.
We’ve put blood, sweat and tears into making biocurious a possibility. And we are finally here. We accessed our bigger garage on July 1st. And we’re hard at work making this place ready for you.
And, in true maker style, we’re building our own stuff. Our lab benches modeled after MAKE’s work tables.
Talk about the loss of innovation from scientists following big money instead of curiosity
Lab, angle 1
Lab, angle 1
Our mission, in other words, is to create the modern day equivalent of the coffeehouses and pubs of old, where thinkers and doers and not necessarily Scientists, would get together to discuss ideas and *crucially* what they could do about them. It’s incredible what can happen over a beer and the tools to make things happen.I hope you’ll join us in a cheers to innovations in science.
OSCON Eri Gentry 28 Jul 11, Garage Biology and DIYbio: Because We Can, Because We Have to
Garage Biology&DIYbio:Because We Can, Because We Have toEri Gentry / @erigentry / email@example.com / @biocuriouslab To contact me after my presentation – text F3B to INTR
“To me, a scientist is bald withhair on the sides of his head. ...Scientists live in their ownworld and the rest of societyputs them there.” -Ashley (before visiting Fermilab, a protein-antiproton collider in Illinois)
“A scientist is a normalperson. They have a life.Scientists are just likeyou.A scientists job looks like alot of fun.” -James (after visiting Fermilab)
Why in a garage?Because we can – know-how + cheap, accessible toolsBecause we have to – outpriced in existing market, nottaken seriously without PhDs, IP problemRead: biotech world not ready for lean startups