Issue 28 11.20.13

Issue 28

Introduction by Sara Gevurtz

biocurious image

Image courtesy of Sara Gevurtz.

In the past, if you were an artist who was interested in science, you were fairly limited in what sort of work you could create. One could always draw about science, but if you really wanted to do anything with biology, you had to find a scientist with a lab who would hopefully be interested in having an artist around, and if nothing else, would at least tolerate the artist’s presence. Your other option would be to be an artist as a hobby, and a scientist as your day job. Since the early 2000s, there have been artists who create bioart, or art that is working with “wet media” or “living tissues and organisms” as the media.

What might be the implications of bio hacking as an artistic practice? Up until recently, biology could only be practiced in well-funded institutions with expensive equipment. Citizen science and the do-it-yourself mentality are creating a movement so that anyone who is interested can gain access to lab equipment and play with science, without necessarily having a degree in biology. Therefore, this new way of practicing science may provide more opportunities for artists who are interested in science to gain access to the lab as a resource. A perfect example of this is a new group, BioCurious, located in the Silicon Valley that has recently opened and is providing an open source biology lab to the community. Here is the press release that further explains what BioCurious is about:

BioCurious, a hackerspace for biotech, is now open to the public! Amateurs, entrepreneurs, and professional scientists get access to the tools, classes, and community at our 2,400-square-foot lab in Sunnyvale, CA. You can create genetically engineered bacteria, sequence DNA, find the tools to get your bio-project growing, or make friends with amateurs and experts in the community.

BioCurious features a full wet lab, office space, and co-working area. Membership at BioCurious includes access to gel electrophoresis, real-time PCR, incubators, fridges, and freezers—we also add new equipment regularly. Last year, 239 amazing people donated $35,319 on Kickstarter to catapult BioCurious out of the garage and into a full lab space. Over the past year, the BioCurious volunteers established a non-profit business entity, held meet-ups, acquired donated equipment, evaluated lab spaces, and established safety and waste disposal procedures. Why? We believe that innovations in biology should be accessible, affordable, and open to everyone. We’ve built a community biology lab for amateurs, inventors, entrepreneurs, and anyone who wants to experiment with friends.


Beginners can become experts in their spare time. In one of our first classes, we made bacteria glow using DNA from jellyfish, the “hello world” experiment for synthetic biology. Hands-on classes in DNA sequencing, bioinformatics, hardware hacking, and more, are on the schedule. Our “Business of Biotech” lecture series is perfect for people trying to break into a new field. Classes for everyone from executives to pre-K young scientists are in the works. Membership is not required, and most classes are open to all ages.


Find co-discoverers, co-founders, and friends at BioCurious, whether you’re looking for the creative spark of a novice or the technical expertise of a professional scientist. BioCurious is the first lab of its kind in the Bay Area, allowing anyone to participate in science. Our members come from backgrounds spanning economics, philosophy, and art, as well as science and engineering. Members can host meet-ups. Planned activities include science projects, art shows, and movie nights. We are collaborating to build something amazing. That’s the spirit of BioCurious.


Have a great idea, but don’t want to pursue it at work or school? We think experiments need a place to flourish. Builders and makers need a place to prototype. Good ideas need to become reality. BioCurious is a not-for-profit organization and does not make any claim to member intellectual property. We encourage start-ups and entrepreneurs to use our facilities and meeting rooms, and have special deals for dedicated bench space, equipment housing, and cold storage.

Change the World:

We’ve come a long way over the last year. Our community now includes over 500 members in the Bay Area. At the Maker Faire we wowed thousands of visitors, and won an Education Award. We presented at the Synthetic Biology Conference. We piloted hands-on biotech classes for Singularity University. And now we’re pleased to open the doors of our new lab in Sunnyvale. We’re starting a new biotech revolution in the Valley—come join us.