DNA Hackers Look to Disrupt the Biotech Industry
Many great information technology companies launched in garages by young silicon hackers. Now a new generation of hackers are starting to do the same in the bio sciences, developing new software programs and techniques that are set to disrupt the biotech industry in a very big way.
We found two videos that show just how far genetic hackers have come in a very short period of time.
The first is from Tuur van Balen, a Belgian scientist, who shows how to hack the bacteria found in yogurt to produce prozac and beta carotene. He accomplishes the task with around $2000 worth of equipment (most of it home made) and genetic code found online and “printed” by a genetic sequencing service.
Genetic source code is much like computer binary code. And like computer binary code most programmers use “interpreters” that translate that code into clearer language. In the following video from Leo Laporte and the TWiT network, genetic entrepreneur Omri Drory demonstrates his new software product that allows for drag and drop DNA sequencing. He’s joined by another genetic hacker, Austen Heinz of Cambrian Genomics, who is working on ways to dramatically reduce the cost involved with sequencing DNA produced from Drory’s software.
Drory says he will soon be launching a Kickstarter project that will sell glowing oak trees using hacked DNA from fireflies.
Both Drory and Heinz have no reservations over DNA hacking to create new lifeforms or variations of existing ones. They say humans have been doing this for centuries with plants and animals through selection. Others, however, say it’s dangerous to be playing with the building blocks of life. What do you think?