We’re featured in the March edition of GQ: France! What’s hot? Josh Perfetto, Russ Durrett, Joe Jackson, Eri Gentry, OpenPCR, and Tito Jankowski: “Dans L’antre Des Biohackers”. Read on for the full article. English translation below, thanks to OpenPCR Fan Max Gleeson! (he includes the translation with a warning: it’s rough at the best, completely incorrect at the worst.)
Last year, February 5th, 2010 marked the day that OpenPCR first came to life. Here’s a picture of our very first prototype, when we were first wondering “can it be done?”.
What a successful year. Last February we assembled our first OpenPCR prototype. Right after that, we made a mad rush for Maker Faire in San Mateo, California. By that time we had a beautiful laser cut case (sponsored by Ponoko) and a machine that worked. Hundreds of people support OpenPCR on Kickstarter, doubling our $6,000 goal for the first crowd-funded biotech project in history. OpenPCR featured in Nature Magazine (excellent photo taken by Josh) (link) and the New York Times (link), among others.
Congratulations to all! Josh and I have learned an incredible amount in the past year. Everything from h-bridges, power supply design, and PCB fabrication, to peltiers, thermistors, CNC machining, and USB control. It is great to be working together!
Yesterday we celebrated while out sailing in the San Francisco Bay! Also thanks to Eri for writing us up on the BioCurious blog (link).
A while back, we mentioned the excitement of sending an OpenPCR off to the Presidential Commission on Bioethics. After all that hard work, you might think our prototype would come home for some R&R. Instead, it headed onto Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where it was featured in an art show in Enschede by the Joris Laarman Lab, along with lots of other cool experimental devices. Congrats to the Lab, and Anita and Nora for their hard work. Here’s a few shots from the exhibit. Enjoy!
OpenPCR was featured in the New York Times today, in an article on “Home Labs on the Rise for the Fun of Science” (link)
Not everyone is content to fill their labs with centuries-old technology. Samara Rubenstein, the manager of the Sackler Educational Laboratory for Comparative Genomics and Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History, said home scientists could extract their DNA by rinsing their mouth with salt water, breaking apart the sloughed-off cheek cells with dish detergent, and then rinsing out the DNA with rubbing alcohol. “It’s really cool,” she said.
Other experiments for home labs can be found at Ology, a corner of the museum’s Web site.
After the DNA is extracted, more options are becoming available for identifying the organism using a technique known as PCR, or polymerase chain reaction. A new project, OpenPCR, is designing new home tools for DNA analysis. Tito Jankowski, who founded the project with Josh Perfetto, said the kit would give anyone the chance to analyze DNA.
Mr. Jankowski said one possible experiment for home scientists would be to test for their reactions to certain food. Only some people, for instance, taste the bitterness in brussels sprouts, a trait that has been linked to a part of our genome that the kit can identify.
Eri Gentry, an entrepreneur in San Francisco, said she had already tested herself for this gene, using a $200 kit from Carolina Biological Supply, which sells to school science labs.
“Some of these things you do not because it’s the quickest way to do it, but because you learn a lot,” she said.
We’re delighted to tell you that OpenPCR has been featured as a highlight of the advances in biotechnology as part of President Obama’s “Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues”. Congrats to Jason Bobe, co-founder of DIYbio on the great presentation to our new friends in Washington.
How did OpenPCR make it to Washington? We got a note a few weeks ago from Jason Bobe, founder of DIYbio about his presentation to the Bioethics commission. Could we get a OpenPCR demo out to him to show off while talking about the latest and greatest in biotech? Of course!
I rushed a request Ponoko and explained that we needed another prototype case cut really quickly. They had it cut the next morning, what a great team! I drove over to Oakland to pick up the laser cut case and got a cool tour of Ponoko and met Dan and Josh in person.
Later in the day I made a trip over to IDEO to meet with an industrial designer there. Got some great feedback and a cool tour!
OpenPCR, the Pearl Gel Box, and other great projects start around 35 min in! (Link: Session 6: Current Advances and Practices)
Thank you so much for your overwhelming support for the OpenPCR project. We raised 202% of our goal, thanks to the massive support of 158 people that contributed financially and the hundreds of people that helped get the word out on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the nightly news!
One point I want to highlight — there are other biotech innovators like Josh and I and they need your support! Josh and I are part of a group called BioCurious, a community biotech lab starting up in San Francisco. BioCurious is trying to raise $30,000 in order to open their doors to dozens of innovators. As a supporter for BioCurious, you will be helping to start a major innovation engine, spurring education, public understanding, and entrepreneurship in biotech. Check out BioCurious at:
And, if you’re in the Bay Area, come by for a meetup: www.meetup.com/biocurious
Tito and Josh
Thank you everyone who came out to visit us at Maker Faire!
Here’s a great video of our booth put together by Jeri Ellsworth. Thanks, Jeri!
Eri and I journeyed up to Sausalito on Thursday to chat with a team of advertising managers from Weiden + Kennedy. We spoke alongside about 10 other amazing Makers, saw some reallllly cutting edge stuff. Everyone was wowed by the OpenPCR project, the Pearl Gel Box, and BioCurious, of course. Thanks for the opportunity, Make crew!
Pictures, courtesy of Rich Gibson: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rich_gibson/tags/wkmake/page4/