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Friday October 31st 2014

New Book, BioPunk, Chronicles Open, DIY Biotechnology Projects





As we noted in this recent post, slowly but surely, biology and biotechnology efforts that follow open source principles are improving, and as they mature, they could have a profound effect on healthcare, longevity, disease control, and much more. Biotechnology reporter Luke Zimmerman’s latest dispatch on the work of Sage Bionetworks founder Stephen Friend offers a case in point, and now, for those interested in the fast-growing trend toward grassroots biotechnology efforts (many of which are open source or follow open source principles), there is an interesting new book: BioPunk, by Marcus Wohlson.

According to Technology Review: "Wohlsen discovers that biohackers, like the open-source programmers and software hackers who came before, are united by a profound idealism." Technology Review adds:

"Suspicious of scientific elitism and inspired by the success of open-source computing, the bio DIYers believe that individuals have a fundamental right to biological information, that spreading the tools of biotech to the masses will accelerate the pace of progress, and that the fruits of the biosciences should be delivered into the hands of the people who need them the most."

BioPunk focuses on specific DIY researchers such as Meredith Patterson, who is working on a decentralized way to test milk for melamine poisoning without dependence on government regulation. It also highlights two garage researchers working on a "DNA Xerox machine" that does very cheap DNA sequencing. 

The trend that is covered in BioPunk is not new. Other biotechnology efforts have pursued open source principles before. Consider The BioBricks Foundation. Scientist Drew Endy is founder of BioBricks, and we covered his work here. BioBricks is a non-profit organization overseen by engineers and scientists from MIT, Harvard, and U.C. San Francisco, focused on open source biotechnology. Just as open source software is often shared in online repositories, the BioBricks Foundation has a registry online for open source biological parts. There are also many open source healthcare-focused projects, such as EpiSurveyor (seen above), which we covered here.

BioPunk will be essential reading for anyone interested in the convergence of open source and biotechnology. There are also healthcare-focused projects covered in the book. For more of our coverage on open biotechnology efforts, check this post.  

 

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