For now, most members of the do-it-yourself, or DIY, biology community are hobbyists, rigging up cheap equipment and tackling projects that — although not exactly pushing the boundaries of molecular biology — are creative proof of the hacker principle. Meredith Patterson, a computer programmer based in San Francisco, California, whom some call the ‘doyenne of DIYbio’, made glow-in-the-dark yogurt by engineering the bacteria within to produce a fluorescent protein. Others hope to learn more about themselves: a group called DIYgenomics has banded together to analyse their genomes, and even conduct and participate in small clinical trials. For those who aspire to change the world, improving biofuel development is a popular draw. And several groups are focused on making standard instruments — such as PCR machines, which amplify segments of DNA — cheaper and easier to use outside the confines of a laboratory, ultimately promising to make DIYbio more accessible.
Disclosure: The article features a sexy picture of my own project, OpenPCR, a kit to PCR DNA.
Bio: MAKE guest citizen science author Tito Jankowski works on making biotech easier to do, including developing open source tools for gel electrophoresis and PCR. Got other citizen science or garage biotech projects you want to hear more about? Comment on this article below or email him at tito at pearlbiotech.com