Open Wetlab FAQ

Wat is het Open Wetlab?
The Open Wetlab is a laboratory for open-source and creative biotechnology. In our space in the Waag building in Amsterdam you can access the tools for doing your own biotechnological research, inventions and experiments. All projects in the lab are documented on a freely accessible website, as a contribution to the global open-source biotechnology community.

Apart from these facilities the Open Wetlab runs a research programme in bio art, bio design and art science collaborations. An overview of these activities can be found on the Open Wetlab project page.

Who can use the Open Wetlab?
The Open Wetlab is open to hobbyists, designers, artists, scientists and hackers that have an interest in biotechnology. The lab is openly accessible for those who want to freely and creatively engage with this technology. No prior knowledge of biology is required.

What is happening in the Open Wetlab?
Collaboratively the users of the Open Wetlab work on biotechnological experiments, installations, exhibitions, workshops and debates. Activities include for example: molecular genetics, biochemistry, microbiology, spectrometry, microscopy, PCR, bioprinting, microbial fuel cells, algae reactors, in vitro tissue culturing, biomaterials, synthetic biology, systems biology, EMG, EEG neurology, brain computer interfacing, DNA computing, microfluidics and more.

Learning-by-doing and debating-by-making are the core methodologies in our public programme, ususally taking place on a Tuesday evening. For a visit on any other time, please send us a message. Interns of several (international) universities conduct their research in the lab.

Who is working in the Open Wetlab?
Lucas Evers, Pieter van Boheemen and Xiamyra daal are in the lab on a daily basis, and supervise the users of the lab. Also Alice Vandeleur-Boorer, Chiara Scarpitti, Nina van den Broek, Chloé Rutzerveld, Louis Buckley, Maurizio Montalti and Anastacia Ilopoulou are regular users. Please take a look on the Open Wetlab meetup group to see who else is an active member.

When can I use the lab?
The Open Wetlab is open during organized events, otherwise please send us an email. The events are announced on the Waag website and the Open Wetlab meetup group. Workshops are also offered as a service.

How can I stay update?
The Open Wetlab activities are announce on the Waag website. You can also sign up for our newsletter. Via the Open Wetlab meetup group you can quickly engage with users of the lab and start a discussion on the forum. Reports and blogposts are published on the Waag website.

What equipment is available in the Open Wetlab?
The following machines can be found in the lab:

  • (Micro)centrifuge
  • Light microscopes with camera
  • (UV-VIS) spectroscope
  • (bio) 3D printer
  • Analytical scale
  • (Micro) pipettes
  • Incubator
  • OpenPCR machine
  • DNA gel electrophorese kit
  • Transilluminator
  • Microwave and oven
  • Fridge and freezer
  • EMG and TENS equipment
  • EEG devices (MindWave and eMotiv)
  • pH meter
  • Sterile hood
  • Evaporator
  • Autoclave

What chemicals are on stock?
It’s best to visit the lab to get a complete overview of the current stock. Most of the time the following is available:

  • Ingredients for bacterial, yeast and algea growth media
  • Buffers (Tris, Borax, Phosphate)
  • Acid (HCl) and base (NaOH)
  • DNA gel ingredients, stains and buffers
  • PCR ingredients (Polymerase, dNTPs, primers)
  • Antibiotics (Amp, Pen, Strep)

The use of chemicals is not for free.

I have an idea, where can I start?
Please visit an open event, or contact Pieter van Boheemen for an appointment.

Where can I find more of these labs?
There is an international network of somewhat similar facilities:

  • DIYBio Groningen
  • BiologiGaragen Copenhagen
  • Biotinkering Berlin
  • London Biohackers
  • MadLab Manchester
  • Open Biolab Graz
  • La Paillasse Paris
  • DIYBio Tours
  • Brmlab Biolab Prague
  • Biodisplay Hungary
  • Biotehna Ljubljana
  • Finnish Society for Bioart
  • BossLab Boston
  • GenSpace New York
  • BioCurious Mount View
  • Lifepatch Yogyakarta
  • Bioart Taiwan
  • Art Science Bangalore
  • Symbiotica Perth
  • Syntechbio Sao Paulo

International platforms can be found on:

How do I get started?
The successful completion of the Safety Instructions training is required before you are allowed to work in the lab independently. Also a project proposal must be discussed with the lab manager. If necessary, additional safety precautions will be taken into account. The main prerequisite is the full documentation of the project on the web, under an open source license.

What type of activities can be done in the Open Wetlab?
The lab may be used for activities that are legally allowed and do not pose any threat to the environment, lab users or yourself. For example you may cultivate non-pathogenic organisms, analyze DNA or other biomaterials, build Open Source Hardware lab equipment or design bio informatic systems.

What type of activities cannot be done in the Open Wetlab?
Experiments that include highly flammable, explosive or polluting chemicals. The use of pathogenic, illness-causing organisms is prohibited and experiments that required molecular genetic modifications are not allowed.

Do you make bio weapons or train terrorists?
No.

What kinds of organisms are used in the Open Wetlab?
We solely work with non-pathogenic organisms. This means that exposure leaves no chance of disease to healthy humans and animals. For example E. coli strain K-12 or Dh5alpha. Yeast and natural strains of slime molds are also used. Please ask for permission before bringing an organism to the lab.

The E. coli strains do not pose a threat to human health because they do not have the capability to grow in humans and do not produce toxins. The strains are commonly used in laboratories around the world. We do not use the natural occurring E. coli, which is a known pathogen.

If you would like with an other organism in the lab, it is fine as long it is non-pathogenic, not a living mammal or other large animal such as reptiles and birds, and do not require a lot of space.

Is recombinant DNA technology or cloning allowed?
No, the Open Wetlab does not have a permit for recombinant DNA experiments. Only natural mutagenic methods are allowed. If your experiments require recombinant DNA, we are may support you in finding a suitable lab.

Do you culture human tissue?
No, culturing of human tissue is not allowed in the Open Wetlab. If you are interested in such experiments, we may introduce you to labs that are capable of supporting it.

How do you handle biological waste?
Anything that is grown in the lab is supposed to be killed before it leaves, or kept in a sealed container. All liquid bacterial cultures are treated with chloride.

Is the Open Wetlab a “biohazard”?
No. We do not cultivate pathogens.

What kind of safety measurements can be found in the Open Wetlab?
Personal protection equipment, such as lab coats, safety goggles and nitrile gloves can be found in the lab. Fire extinguishers and eye washers are available too. Most importantly, every user of the lab has completed the safety training, or is supervised by someone who did.

When can I get safety training?
The safety trainings are scheduled once a month.

With whom is the Open Wetlab collaborating?
The Open Wetlab collaborates with many different parties in the citizen science community, biotech industry, institutes, schools and universities. Please take a look at our Open Wetlab projectpage to get an overview.

Do you have an advisory board?
Yes, the board consists of:

  • Prof. dr. H. de Groot – Professor of Biophysical Organic Chemistry, Leiden University
  • Prof. dr. ing R. Zwijnenberg – Professor of Art history and director of The Arts and Genomics Center
  • Prof. Dr. R. Braidotti - Director of the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University
  • Dr. Ingeborg Reichle - Humboldt-Universität Berlin
  • Dr. Denisa Kera – National University of Singapore
  • Taconis Stolk – Koninklijke Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten
  • Arne Hendriks – Artist