I have heard children say, “when I grow up I want to be an astronaut”. Now, I am waiting for the moment when children say, “I want to be a biohacker”. Why? Simply because biohackers are becoming the All-Stars of increasing consumer awareness about the possibilities of biotechnology. With the effort of biohackers, synthetic biology has seen an increase in affordability, access, awesome people, collaboration, and education. Recently I had the privilege of visiting such a biohacker space, Counter Culture Labs (@). If you happen to be in the East Bay area anytime soon, here are five fabulous reasons to visit Counter Culture Labs.
#1: The Science Is Becoming Affordable
The reason biohacker spaces are starting to pop up everywhere is because people like to learn and do. At the end of the day those who are passionate about science need a place to practice what they have learned in theory. The practice of science is where the art and the technique come in. Only by, “doing the science” are discoveries made. The drawback to “doing the science” is that scientific tools are expensive. However, with a community lab space costs go down and access to the proper tools and equipment go up.
#2: A Place To Do A Proof of Concept
We are now seeing the rise of biohacker spaces as a place for ideation of new industry products. Since community labs are giving more people access to scientific tools more people can move from their hypothesis to experimental design and analysis. With more chances at proofs of concept more people are finding ways to become entrepreneurs in biology. For example this past summer the Real Vegan Cheese! project was launched on Indiegogo and raised $37,369 for a feasibility study of using yeast to make cheese proteins. The project then went onto iGEM 2014 to win a gold medal.
What project will be next? You can go to a community Counter Culture Lab meeting on Tuesday nights to find out.
#3: The People Running It Are Great
The people running Counter Culture are awesome. The organizers are working very hard to lower the barrier of entry to science along with increasing education and awareness about biotechnology. I have had the privilege of meeting both Dr. Patrik D’Haeseeler and Mary Ward who helped found and run Counter Culture Labs and both are knowledgeable and approachable. Patrick works by day at Lawrence Livermore National Labs as a computational biologist and by night plans fun science activities for Counter Culture to run. Mary works as a lab manager for both Counter Culture and Berkeley BioLabs and is a strong advocate for citizen scientists.
#4: The Have Pretty Cool Friends
In addition to the great organizers running Counter Culture, the lab has partnered with the hacker space Sudo Room. Having a hardware hacker space and biohacker space in close proximity has resulted in bringing together individuals with knowledge in varying disciplines and creates a fun dynamic where great ideas are always being shared. In addition, Counter Culture has partnered with Magnitude.io to put on the first Space Hackathon that will feature a wetlab workshop.
#5: They Have Great Goals
Along with the Space Hackathon, Counter Culture plans on continuing to grow in the East Bay Area. Currently, their short term goals are to build upon the community of science hackers and increase science literacy. To accomplish this task they are planning their own Biohacker/Science Hacker Conference in 2015. Their long term goals include expanding the chemistry and physics capabilities of the lab and upgrading to Biology Safety Level 2.
When will you visit?
You do not need to take my word for how awesome Counter Culture Labs is; simply go check out the space for yourself! Everyone there is very open and friendly. For information check out Counter Culture’s Meetup Group.0