Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Home Brew Biotech Capitalists

More on that theme that capitalism doesn't require nearly as much capital anymore. It turns out that the cost of doing biotech is falling - in some cases dramatically to the point that it's possible to do research in your bedroom/basement (naturenews):

Carlson penned essays and articles that fanned the embers of the idea. "The era of garage biology is upon us," he wrote in a 2005 article in the technology magazine Wired. "Want to participate?" The democratization of science, he reasoned, would bring in new talent to build and improve scientific instrumentation, and maybe help to uncover new industrial applications for biotechnology. Eventually, he decided to follow his own advice, setting up a garage lab in 2005. "I made the prediction," he says, "so I figured maybe I should do the experiment."

Carlson is not alone. Would-be 'biohackers' around the world are setting up labs in their garages, closets and kitchens — from professional scientists keeping a side project at home to individuals who have never used a pipette before. They buy used lab equipment online, convert webcams into US$10 microscopes and incubate tubes of genetically engineered Escherichia coli in their armpits. (It's cheaper than shelling out $100 or more on a 37 °C incubator.) Some share protocols and ideas in open forums. Others prefer to keep their labs under wraps, concerned that authorities will take one look at the gear in their garages and label them as bioterrorists. [...]

Still, five years after taking science into his garage, Carlson says he's convinced that biohacking has the potential to trigger a technological revolution. "We're going to see a lot more at the garage level that will produce a variety of products in the marketplace, one way or another," he says.
Despite the discomfort of thinking that your neighbours next door could be brewing anthrax, that's always been the risk. They could be making fertilizer bombs now for all I know but the potential rewards and potential breakthroughs are substantial as more amateurs consider new ways to solve real problems - and that's the essence of markets and capitalism.

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