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OpenPCR solo PCR machine thermal cycler

The eagerly awaited OpenPCR kit is now shipping! UPS picked up the first batch of kits and OpenPCRs are on their way to users in 5 continents and 13 countries around the world. For $512, every OpenPCR kit includes all the parts, tools, and beautiful printed instructions – you ONLY need a set of screwdrivers.

A PCR machine is basically a copy machine for DNA. It is essential for most work with DNA, things like exposing fraud at a sushi restaurant, diagnosing diseases including HIV and H1N1, or exploring your own genome. The guy who discovered the PCR process earned a Nobel Prize in 1993, and OpenPCR is now the first open source PCR machine.

Josh and I prototyped OpenPCR over about 4 months — it was a lot of fun. Last May we unveiled the first OpenPCR prototype to all you crazy people on Kickstarter, 158 people gave us a total of $12,121. With that we designed and manufactured a repeatable, works-all-the-time device — it took a lot of hard work. Now we’re done and ready to share!

OpenPCR is designed for labs, classrooms, and garages. Tell your science-y friends about OpenPCR, “Like” us on Facebook, or write us and tell us that you stopped by!

OpenPCR Firsts:

1. First commercially available PCR machine for $512
We get a lot of people who come up to us and say “jumping jillikers, batman! we paid $10,000 for ours and it’s this big (make refrigerator-sized hand motion)!”. While modern PCR machines aren’t fridge sized anymore, we’re proud to say that OpenPCR is the most affordable and most compact PCR machine out there.

2. First Arduino USB storage device:
OpenPCR PCR machine thermal cycler
This is a big deal for you Arduino hackers out there. A normal Arduino can only talk back and forth over a serial port. This is a pain to set up, and we wanted OpenPCR to just plug-in and go. How does it work? When OpenPCR is plugged in, the Arduino mounts itself as a USB drive called “OpenPCR”. The computer passes love notes to OpenPCR by writing to that file, and Arduino sends love notes back by writing to another file. The implementation was tough, and there are size restrictions due to the size of the chips used by Arduino, but it’s pretty simple to make use of. We also built a cross-platform app for your Mac or PC in Adobe Air so that the we could have a simple computer control interface. Simply plug in your OpenPCR to your computer with USB. No setup besides downloading the OpenPCR app! (Josh and Xia totally pulled of a miracle on this!)

OpenPCR PCR machine thermal cycler

Do you want to see us develop more breakthrough biotechnology? Along this journey we uncovered a lot of opportunities for PCR and other biological devices. We’re a new company and would love to meet other passionate people. Our hurdles right now are manufacturing (mechanical engineers!), distribution (sales + marketers!), and new hardware/software/bioware + industrial design. If you’re in the Bay Area and want to get in on making all this crazy DNA stuff useful to regular people, send us an email: contact@openpcr.org.

Visit the OpenPCR blog for the full story!


Bio: MAKE guest citizen science author Tito Jankowski works on making biotech easier to do, including developing open source tools for gel electrophoresis and a thermal cycler. 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 openpcr.org


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