7 reasons why you should become a biohacker

Xiamyra Daal

What is a biohacker, what does a biohacker do and why should anyone become one? With the BioHack Academy #5 around the corner we listed 7 reasons why.

Biohackers commonly try to hack and improve biomaterials such as pigments, fuels, DNA or fungi. It can also result in a more conceptual explorative projects to see the potential for future products. More and more this type of research is taking place outside of traditional labs, showing that everyone can conduct experiments and can become biohacker.

1. Bacteria are fun!

Experimenting with bacteria has (almost) no limits: learning how to grow and make them work for you is at the core of many biohack projects. The role of bacteria as source of energy or the extraordinary ability of some bacteria to produce pigments are some of the fields currently being explored. This results in inspiring and fun projects like Musica Bacteria, the first record label run by bacteria developed by Mark Buitenwerf, who participated in BioHack Academy #4.

2. Brew and hack your diet

With your own biofactory at home you can become a crafted brewer of good-old yoghurt, cheese, wine, beer and even kombucha and spirulina superfoods. Some biohackers take it a step further and hack, improve and play with new food inventions. Like biohacker Dr. Josiah Zayner who brewed green luminous beer by manipulating yeast. Or the Delft (Dutch) craft beer company that makes algae beer.

3. DNA storage

DNA is a strong and stable information encoder carrying the characteristics of all beings on this planet for billions of years. Besides our genes, there is also a lot of so called junk DNA that tells fascinating stories about location and exposure of the creature carrying it.

Can we also store other types of information in DNA as for example our culture heritage? BioHack Academy #3 student explored these grounds and made a language by which Japanese traditional sake songs can be encodes in yeast DNA.

4. DNA editing

The easy and more common availability of DNA editing technologies is a hot topic. On the one hand editing DNA can result in a medical revolution that helps us defeat inherited diseases, while at the same time this technology gives humans the possibility to ‘create’ whole human beings. Where do we want this technology to take us? Do we want designer babies? Which parties, institutions and individuals should be able to edit DNA? Besides these moral questions and challenges DNA editing can be used for complete other purposes and result in surprising projects.

Gunter Seyfried, a bio-artist, used the CRISPR-CAS9 technology to cut DNA that represented dots of a painting, thereby creating eyes of the bull in the painting.

5. Open Hardware

In a world where science is mostly still a closed practice, gaining access to the primary tools is of great importance to many independent researchers and labs in isolated locations. The BioHack Academy is designed around the use of Open Science Hardware that shows there are more options outside established labs to do research. And because it’s open you can adapt the tools to your own needs! Design your own bioreactor to optimize production of biofuels, pigments or food. There are (almost) no limit to working with living materials!

6. Seeding a start up

Do you have a great idea but no resources or idea how to investigate your research questions? The BioHack Academy will help you build the machines for your lab which enables you to start prototyping and do your research! Like digi.bio who ended up in a business incubator and went to China do further develop their product!

7. Sustainability

Also tired of all the polluting packages and materials? The BioHack Academy gives you the opportunity to experiment and develop sustainable biomaterials. Last edition Manuel made a backpack from hemp fibers and experimented with coloring the material with pigments from bacteria. Also during the third edition participants worked with biomaterials.

And there are many other materials that you can think of such as coffee, fungi-materials of for example kombucha-material.

Are you passionate and curious about biology, technology and hacking? Join the BioHack academy. This course is for bio-designers, engineers, scientists, artists, homebrewers and hackers who want to grow their own sustainable biotech materials. Meet the future of food, drugs and materials. During weekly lectures, you will also learn the basics of biotechnology, 3D design, digital manufacturing, programming and electronics. By the end of the academy you will have constructed your own personal biofactory to do some serious biohacking!

Feeling fired up and ready to go? Sign up to become a Biohacker! 

About the author

  • Xiamyra Daal worked as concept developer at the Open Wetlab of Waag.