DIYbio – ‘do-it-yourself biology’ – is a growing movement in which researchers, students, organisations and hobbyists join together in exploring the world of microbiology, with core tenets of openness, accessibility and creativity-driven inquiry.

At the turn of the 21st century the Human Genome Project was declared complete. A new era began in which living material and life itself became a medium of design and technology – Biohack Acdemy

DIYbio is closely aligned with the hacker ethos, not with a malicious and exploitative connotation, but in its traditional meaning of repurposing or reprogramming something beyond its original function; hence the term biohacker and biohacking.

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The advent of cheap rapid prototyping technologies, such as 3D printing, microcontroller kits and laser cutting has enabled, what were once expensive commercial biological platforms, to be made for a tiny fraction of the cost, affordable by fablabs, makerspaces, student societies, enthusiasts and backyard scientists. Beyond this, the costs of synthesizing genetic matter, biomaterials and chemicals has plummeted, enabling DIYbio communities to develop open-source tools and methods for growing, manipulating, transforming and understanding cells, tissues and organisms outside the confines of a professional genetics lab.

Makerspaces around the world have built electronic devices and fabricated materials that shape tissue into patterns and guide their development toward particular tissue types, be it bone, muscle or neural. Lasers were used to activate individual muscle cells, and they were also used to laser-print neural connections. Cells were cultured on 3D-printed scaffolds and even inside different fruits. Kits are now being developed that will allow anyone to grow and reprogram cells in their own kitchen.

The purpose of DIY bio is multifaceted. First, it serves to create, simplify, adapt and share tools and methods to aid existing investigations in biology. These tools may otherwise be out-of-reach for some laboratories. Second, it serves to educate and engage students in a creative, hands-on way. Many DIY bio groups share common characteristics; they are:

  • interdisciplinary
  • open-source or not-for-profit
  • focused on cheap and accessible materials and methods
  • immersed in creativity and the journey, rather than a publishable or lucrative outcome

DIYbio around the world

GaudiLabs are creative spaces for working, thinking and living where culture and technology meet. We conduct open research in open source culture technology. Developing methods, process and devices to unite people and knowledge from different fields and backgrounds.”

“At the Pelling Lab we have become increasingly interested in the use of low-cost DIY solutions in our research practice. More recently, the use of open source software and hardware (Arduino, Rapberry Pi, etc) are transforming the way we develop new tools and devices. The research in the lab is a result of building, printing, coding and hacking and we benefit from the enormous pool of talented Makers in Ottawa, both inside and outside of academia.” is a spin-off project of TReND in Africa. Here, we present our designs and modifications of Free and Open Source Hardware projects specifically intended to be used in a scientific lab or research setting.”

Following courtesy of ‘Science for All: How to Make Free, Open Source Laboratory Hardware’ article

Open Lab Tools at the University of Cambridge is creating automated microscopes.”

Sensorica, a Canadian non-profit, makes high-end sensing instrumentation.”

Open Ephys is developing electrophysiology equipment.”

Hackteria is designing low-cost biological equipment and combining art with science.”

Public Lab is encouraging citizen science with a long list of instruments such as spectrometers.”

Backyard Brains provides tools for neuroscience.”

Berkley’s Tekla Labs has a library of quality scientific equipment.”

The Open Space Agency even has developed an open source ultrascope.