Biohacking Crashcourse in Science Gallery, 14th - 18th June

It’s terribly late of me to share this on my own website, but here it is:

This Tuesday next, 14th June, I’ll be commencing a five-day workshop in DIYbio and biohacking. The course is €150 and runs from 10am-3pm weekdays and 1-4pm on Saturday. Bookings through the Science Gallery please.

Rough content breakdown by day:

  1. Introduction to Microbiology, Evolution, Genetics, Bacterial physiology, Synthetic Biology. Practical skills: Sterilising, maintaining sterility, basics of microbiology. Making your own lab equipment on the cheap.
  2. Molecular biology; Plasmids, Enzymes, DNA cloning, DNA electrophoresis. Modern methods of manipulating DNA. Buffers and Reagents. Practical skills: Liquid handling, measurement, centrifugation, electrophoresis of DNA.
  3. Molecular biology ctd: Isolation of Plasmid DNA from domestic/wild sources, Isolation of useful enzymes from household ingredients. Methods of getting manipulated DNA inside target cells with household ingredients.
  4. Synthetic Biology: How modern genetic engineering is done. Exploring genetic data online. Finding useful proteins. Tailoring DNA to your species and chosen purpose. DNA design on a computer. Practical skills: Design your first gene and estimate or generate a price quote - ready to order if desired!
  5. DIYbio and Society. Perspectives, possibilities, biosafety and bioethics. How to conduct a risk assessment. Legal requirements for synthetic biology in Ireland, EU, globally. Possible applications of synthetic biology. Possible pitfalls, dangers or malign intentions. Setting up an Irish community lab for social biotech.

Originally the plan for day 3 was for participants to create their own GMO bacteria with the DNA that I designed for DIYbio, a plasmid that I’m calling “Indie Backbone” or “IndieBB 1.0”. However, a license could not be obtained in time for the workshops and I do not have enough IndieBB on hand*, and so instead a focus on extracting and working with wild DNA is presented.

In the next few days I’ll be trying to isolate plasmids from a few yogurt strains. If I find a stable strain in time I’ll bring it.. otherwise it’ll be a shared experiment on the day! Alternative sources of plasmid DNA include soil samples, and we can work with those also.

These workshops are first-of-a-kind in that they focus on entirely DIY methods, even if the equipment used is often of a higher quality than you’ll find at home. In other words, after these workshops, you should be able to go home and:

  • Make your own lab equipment (possibly with help on the electronics side of things) for basic microbiology and DNA biology: Incubator, Centrifuge, Autoclave, Electrophoresis Rig, Thermal Cycler
  • Make buffers and reagents for advanced DNA work from ingredients that can be bought locally or found online
  • Extract plasmids, enzymes from local sources: Yogurt, Soil Samples
  • Start exploring, manipulating and working with DNA and microbes, possibly even creating your own GMO microbes.
  • Conduct thoughtful risk assessments with respect to human health, the environment and bioethics.
  • Conduct yourself legally within the Irish GMO regulation framework.

Does that seem too good to be true? I didn’t say it would be easy, only that it’s possible. And a great first step is to join me in the Science Gallery on the 14th. Hope to see you there!

Remember; the learning process doesn’t end with the workshops, and if you miss them it’s not the end of the world. There’s an Irish mailing list for DIYbio, I’m going to be offering more workshops in due course, I’m always happy to meet up in Cork and hopefully we’ll generate enough interest to have at least one community DIYbio lab in Ireland within a year. If you’re not able to make these workshops but wish you could, get on the list and get talking. There’s so much to be done!

*Producing more DNA is free and easy; you just grow more of the cells containing it and harvest it from them. However, I have not yet obtained a license on my own premises, either. This means my plasmid is very rare and valuable at present!