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Review of RevBio’s Crowd Funding Campaign

Art’s primary function is to cause people to re-evaluate their environment. A synthetic biology artists’ responsibility is to communicate to the public what the field of synthetic biology is capable of and evaluate how it affects their lives. At SynBioBeta San Francisco’s 2014 Conference, Revolution Biology (RevBio) Founder and CEO, Kiera Havens, announced her company would have a crowdfunding campaign in early 2015 for a synthetic biology art project.

Since SynBioBeta San Francisco’s 2014 Conference, the staff at RevBio has been working to bring their flower to market. They have consulted with Ball Horticultural on choosing robust lines of petunias for the transformations so that they end up with great-performing garden plants. In addition, they have also partnered with ASPB for the international Fascination of Plants Day to promote a naming contest for their flower.  The person submitting the winning name will win $500 dollars, while ASPB assists RevBio in cross promoting their flower. Now, on March 3rd, for the first time ever, there is a crowdfunding campaign for Color-Changing Flowers on Indiegogo.

The crowdfunding campaign for Color-Changing Flowers has two goals. First, the campaign serves to support their partnership with Helen Storey of the University College of the Arts, London to create “A Living Dress”—an art installation incorporating color changing petunias and examining the interaction of technology, the environment, and society. Second, RevBio is raising money to complete their goal of bringing Petunia Circadia to the garden by 2017.

One may say, “good for RevBio,” but The Glowing Plant has already tapped into the synthetic biology crowdfunding market. However, if you perform a search of Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns mentioning synthetic biology, this is the first time anyone has used crowdfunding to back a synthetic biology art project that produces a new organism. Ideally, RevBio would help the public of Indiegogo understand where GMO plants come from and the process of making GMO’s. As Kiera Haven says, “Biology is beautiful” and the RevBio campaign is definitely eye catching.

In addition to grabbing the attention of the public, RevBio’s Color Changing Flowers Campaign is an example of a small company building on the platform synthetic biologists have created. Synthetic biology has been working on creating platform institutions and companies that sequence and synthesize DNA as well as modularize its parts, in addition to categorize metabolic pathways.  Lately there has been an upward trend of  smaller companies partnering with larger synthetic biology companies for DNA services. For example, RevBio has a partnership with IDT DNA—for DNA synthesis services in support of their flowers. As one might expect, smaller companies tend to use lesser quantities of DNA as compared to larger institutions, however, increasing public awareness could boost the amount of DIYBIO hobbyists and spark new companies who are all looking for suppliers.

RevBio’s color changing flowers is exciting, different, and grabs people’s attention. The down-side to this product is that is not yet ready for the marketplace. The objective of the Indiegogo campaign is to raise additional funding so that seeds of these flowers will be ready by 2017, this extended wait will definitely test the public’s patience. As a consumer, I know when I buy something, I expect instant gratification. However, as an engineer, I understand design takes time. Time will tell how long we, the public, can hold off for such a wonderful creation…in the meantime I know what I will be getting my Mom for Mother’s day 2017.

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Jennifer Kaehms

Jennifer Kaehms

Jennifer works with the investment team at Canvas Ventures. Jennifer earned her degree in Bioengineering from UC San Diego. In her free time she enjoys triathlons; she completed her first Ironman Triathlon in 2015.

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