Hackers may generally be unwelcomed in the tech space, but according to the blog O'Reilly Radar, biohackers may be what's needed to drive innovation in biological research and technology development.
In a post, Mike Loukides compares what is going on in synthetic biology now with what happened with computers four decades ago. He says that computers were around in the 1960s, but their use was limited mainly to "professionals" rather than "enthusiasts." That started to change in the 1970s, however, when a "club" of entrepreneurs, which included Steve Wozniak, one of the founders of Apple, began building their own machines.
Throughout the world, such early innovators democratized computing and set the stage for computers to become a ubiquitous household appliance.
According to Loukides, biohacking is similarly transforming synthetic biology. "It is breaking out of the confines of academia and researching laboratories," he writes, noting GenSpace and BioCurious as significant biohacking hackerspaces in the US.
"A grassroots biohacking community is developing, much as it did in computing" he says, and adds "that community is transforming biology from a purely professional activity, requiring lab coats, expensive equipment, and other accoutrements, to something that hobbyists and artists can do."
Loukides is far from being the only one who sees biohacking as an innovation driver in biological research. In October 2011, Adrienne Burke, a former editor at our sister publication Genome Technology, wrote in Forbes that biohacking was on the rise and changing the scientific landscape.
And as another Daily Scan sister publication PCR Insider reported in February 2011, a pair of biohackers designed an open-source thermal cycler for about $500 and were planning to sell it to do-it-yourself biologists.