If we want science to exist outside of academia and industry then we need science labs, tools and education that are open and accessible to everyone. I'm a co-founder of and co-organizer of Counter Culture Labs, an open citizen science laboratory with a focus on biohacking, as well as Real Vegan Cheese, a project to create a genetically engineered yeast that produces real vegan cheese protein, the critical component of cheese. Real Vegan Cheese is hard at work figuring out yeast expression of the most critical and difficult protein: Kappa-casein.
We've had several months where very little experimental work has taken place. The problem has been a lack of volunteers and the fact that Counter Culture Labs hasn't been ready for safely working with genetic engineering, but now CCL is ready for BSL-1 (BioSafety Level 1) and we're restarting experiments at both BioCurious and CCL! The main focus of these new experiments is to provably express some amount of bovine kappa-casein in yeast. You can read our plans as they emerge here.
I was featured on the Danish National Radio program Harddisken (the harddrive) talking about the Real Vegan Cheese project. The interview is in Danish. Here's the episode and here's a direct link to the mp3. Skip to 21:30 to hear the bit about Real Vegan Cheese.
Benjamin Rupert, one of my collaborators on Real Vegan Cheese held a great talk on the project at Chaos Communication Camp 2015 (creative commons licensed). You can get the slides here.
The Real Vegan Cheese project was our first big collaboration between to biohacker labs: Counter Culture Labs and BioCurious and a lot of the wet-lab work was being done in the evening by people with day jobs, so after a full day of work and then additional wet lab work it would often happen that, while people _would_ take hand-written notes during their wet-lab work, they wouldn't necessarily remember to transfer them to our wiki and thus we'd often have a lag between an experiment being done in one lab and the other lab knowing about it. To solve this problem, I made an open source / open hardware system that instantly and automatically uploads hand written and spoken lab notes to the web. It's called dumpscribe and it's based on a LiveScribe Pulse or Echo pen (non-open hardware but we've reverse-engineered the driver), a Beagle Bone Black, a bunch of open source software and a home-made docking station. You simply write your notes in the special LiveScribe (but otherwise normal paper) notebook, optionally touch the record button to record spoken notes, and as soon as you dock the pen, dumpscribe will download everything from the pen, convert it to open formats and upload it to the dumpscribe web app for all to see.
We're on the front page of Wired with Real Vegan Cheese right now! Here's the article. I'm continually impressed with the amount of press coverage we've been getting, from PBS News Hour to, Popular Science and even French/Swiss television channel Nuovo.
We completed our kickstarter crowdfunding campaign with over $33k raised from nearly 200 contributers. Now the work begins to upgrade our plumbing and electrical and build a clean room for BSL-1 _and_ BSL-2!
Real Vegan Cheese won the iGEM 2014 best community labs project at the iGEM Giant Jamboree! This was the first iGEM to allow non-academically associated projects so of course we had to attend :)
The East Bay Express named us the Best DIY Science Group in the East Bay :)
We completed our indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with over $37k raised from about 700 contributers and tons of media attention! Thanks so much to everyone who helped us get here!
In 2012 I was part of the BIOFAB team working on the following research:
If thermocyclers are too expensive to give one to every interested person, then we'll design cheaper ones and teach people how to build them.