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= DIY Bio is a rapidly growing movement of small teams, individuals or (informal) organizations who independently perform biological engineering. It aims at making biotechnology more accessible through education, the development of low-cost methods and equipment, and revealing the excitement of science. [1]


"Do-It-Yourself Biology... aims to move science into the hands of hobbyists. It is starting by holding sessions where amateurs extract DNA, and attempt genetic fingerprinting using common household items and the kitchen sink.

"It shows you how much science can be about duct tape and having a few screws in the right place," Cowell said. "It shatters that clinical image."

What Cowell and crew hope to achieve is a democratization of science that could propel the field of biology into the mainstream, much as computer hackers fueled computer development a generation ago. After all, Silicon Valley's Homebrew Computer Club played a part in the personal computer industry and counts Apple Inc. founders among its attendees; Cowell would like DIYbio to be the Homebrew Club of Biology.

Cowell and his mostly 20-something friends are on a mission that seems inevitable to them, and is beginning to spark the attention, interest - and sometimes safety concern - of professional scientists. The recent shutdown of a lab in a retired chemist's home in Marlborough focused attention on the question of safety and the regulation of citizen scientists.

The movement is getting much of its steam from synthetic biology, a field of science that seeks to make working with cells and genes more like building circuits by creating standardized biological parts. The dream, already playing out in the annual International Genetically Engineered Machine competition at MIT, is that biology novices could browse a catalog of ready-made biological parts and use them to create customized organisms. Technological advances have made it quite simple to insert genes into bacteria to give them the ability to, for example, detect arsenic or produce vitamins."[2]


By Aurelie Ghalim, in her study, Fabbing Practices:

" According to Eugene Thacker, biotech hobbyist projects employ a kind of “tactical media” that supports amateur practice and argues that “amateurism and hobbyism are important here because imply an interest in learning and interest in reappropriating, repurposing” . On the same line, Eric Kluitenberg argues that amateur practice is not only about access to the means of production but also access “to the very systems that define what counts as knowledge, and how and where value is created” .

The goal of biotech hobbyists is to bring non-specialists to hands-on experiences and shared knowledge. This is not about developing “biotech for the people” or solving social problems . DIY and DIT biotech approach is much more in line of what the art collective and tactical media practitioners, Critical Art Ensemble, was doing back to the early 2000s: making biology hackable and appropriating scientific knowledge and practices that had been monopolised by scientists and corporations. These tactics that aim for a contestational biology are bringing biology to public examination . “A non-specialist (hobbyist) engagement with biotech can count as legitimate knowledge in the contestation over the meanings of biotechnology in our society”.

Security Issues

"Tom Knight, a senior research scientist at MIT who is cofounding a synthetic biology company called Ginkgo BioWorks, sees the transformative value of Biohacking - the phrase used to describe doing to living organisms what computer hackers have long done with electronics. But he has reservations about putting such power into the hands of amateurs.

I think if the safety issues can be addressed, there is a big opportunity," Knight said. "It's a huge issue; how do you regulate so [people] don't cause havoc.

The promises and risks of biohackery were addressed in a paper this summer in the new journal Systems and Synthetic Biology. "A young crowd of enthusiastic biohackers . . . may spark a wave of innovation," wrote the coordinator of a European task force examining the implications of synthetic biology. But he cautioned that amateurs who don't adhere to a professional code of conduct and lack sufficient safety training raise the specter of biosafety and security risks."[3]

More Information


  1. DNA Hacking
  2. Open Biology ; Open Source Biology
  3. Citizen Science
  4. diybio on the News Hour (YouTube)
  5. DIY Bio 4 Beginners


Maintained by the Maryland DIY Bios Website

DIY- Bio

  1. MIT on DIY:
  2. do-it-yourself biology:
  3. H+ magazine with related articles:
  4. DIY hardware on the web:
  5. Frequently asked questions about DIYbio:
  6. Pre-requisites to success:

Local DIY Community Spaces

  1. Harford Space:
  2. The Node - Baltimore City Space:
  3. Frederick County Biotech Community:
  4. HacDC - The Capital City Space:

DIY-Bio Projects & Kits

  1. Counter Top DNA - Thermocycler:
  2. Project: SmartLab:
  3. OpenSource InkJet Nucleotide Synthesizer/MicroArray: