18 Oct Biotechnology for all
Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW) 2015
Biotechnological research is no longer limited to specialist laboratories: a growing community of biologists, amateur enthusiasts and technophiles is experimenting in kitchens, workshops and DIY laboratories. Some people view the democratisation of biotechnology as a threat, others as an opportunity to gain a better understanding of complex scientific interrelationships within society. A few years ago, something which occurred in software development in the early 1990s also began to emerge in the field of biotechnology: “open source” and “do-it-yourself” (“DIY”) strategies are opening up a field of knowledge traditionally occupied by experts, universities and large companies to a broader community. In 2008, a handful of technology enthusiasts in Boston set out to drag biotechnological research out of established institutions into garages and kitchens in urban and rural settings. Since then, Europe, the USA and Asia have seen the emergence of dozens of garage laboratories with scales, mixers, refrigerators and incubators, all purchased cheaply from eBay. Some laboratories are also equipped with homemade bioanalytical devices. Inquisitive laymen and experienced researchers conduct experiments shoulder to shoulder, pursuing personal biotech research projects or simply indulging in the satisfaction of DIY.