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Biohacking on the Rise

'Citizen scientists' are no longer lone tinkerers working on research projects in their garages, but are becoming an organized movement of innovators that are changing the way science is done, says Adrienne Burke at Forbes. "Community labs" and Web sites for do-it-yourself biologists are popping up all over the place — earlier this month, one such citizen scientist opened a nonprofit public use space called BioCurious for anyone working on biotech projects. "It all suggests we could start seeing more rapid progress in the biotechnology industry," she adds. "Publications from USA Today to Nature have heralded the global rise of 'biohacker' activities that include personal genome investigations, synthetic biology experimentation, and reverse-engineered research tools." Skeptics argue that the research projects biohackers are taking on are more complex and harder to do than they think, Burke says. George Church tells Burke that biohackers are to biotech as Steve Jobs was to computers.

Full Disclosure: Burke served as editor of Genome Technology magazine from 2000 until the end of 2003.