DIY Biology is a rapidly growing global movement whose aim is to democratise, demystify and widen participation in low-cost, hands-on biology - bringing it out of the laboratory and onto the kitchen table.
Manchester’s very own MadLab stayed at The Arts Catalyst getting their hands dirty with DIY biology. Pioneers of the DIY-bio movement, even the FBI is keeping an eye on them! In the spirit of a speakeasy, participants were able to swing by and join in or sign up to a workshop from culturing bioluminescent bacteria to Tiki-style DNA extraction, cellular gastronomy to genetic modification. There was also a family day, evening salon and peripatetic market foodlab to get participants experimenting.
Shoestring biotech: Build your own lab!
Tuesday 5 March, 1-6pm
The LabEasy kicked off with the design and build of a new laboratory. With no expensive bench top equipment in sight, the “lab raising” was an all-hands-on-deck exercise in home technology hacking, ersatz gadgetry and lots and lots of Lego. Workshop lead: Dr Marc Dusseiller.
Genetic Modification for Beginners
Wednesday 6 March, 7-9.30pm
So you’ve got yourself a spider and you’ve got yourself a goat: how do you go about combining them? Before your ambitions get ahead of you, you might want to go back to basics and try the simplest genetic modification of all with the humble bacteria Escherichia Coli. We worked with the Genomikon kit to assemble simple genetic circuits and in turn modify our bacteria to give them new behaviours.
An Evening of Bioluminescence
Thursday 7 March, 7-9.30pm
Bioluminescence, from the Greek bios for living and lumen for light, is the natural phenomena that makes fireflies glow and allows deep sea squid to find each other in the dark. We explored the phenomenon of bioluminescence both natural, thanks to some judicious bacterial cultivation following a trip to the local fishmonger, and artificial with our old friend Escherichia Coli.
Cellular Gastronomy – An Alternative Sunday Lunch
Sunday 10 March, 1-5pm
Move over Heston, there’s a new organism in town and it goes by the name of S. Cerevisiae. Participants were able to enjoy the fermented fruits from our edible Lab and find out about its inhabitants – Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis (Beer), Lactobacillus Sanfrancencis (Sourdough) and Aspergillus Oryzae (Sake, Miso, Amazake, etc.) amongst others.
Cocktails and Canapés – an evening exploring genetics and flavour (Over 18s only)
Monday 11 March, 6.30-9pm
Do we develop a palate as we’re growing up, or do we inherit our sense of taste and smell? What would it be like to taste things differently? There are well-researched associations between the enjoyment of eating vegetables and genetic variations in the TAS2R38 gene (AKA the Brussels sprout gene) but this is just the tip of the culinary iceberg. Why do some people find that coriander tastes like soap and others don’t? Are some people immune to the charms of cheese? Cocktails and Canapés was an evening of culinary experimentation, Tiki-style DNA extraction, taste-changing miracle fruit and the rigorously researched imbibing of cocktails, all in the name of science, of course!
Bioelectronics - Transforming Mud into Light
Wednesday 13 March, 1-5pm
We cracked out the stripboard and solder and exploried the boundaries between life and machine, analogue and digital. In particular we built microbe-powered LED lights using some local mud and a sprinkling of biological ingenuity.
Wednesday 13 March, 7pm doors, 7.30-9.30pm
A gathering together Europe’s foremost biohackers, artists, inventors, ethicists and novel thinkers for an evening of discourse, from DIY practicalities to speculative biological entertainments; legal and ethical grey areas (and brown areas) to outlaw science and beyond. Speakers: Ellen Jorgensen - Genspace, Kristijan Tkalec - Biotehna, Cathal Garvey, Hackerteria's Dr Marc Dusseiller, Brian Degger of Maker Space, Thomas Landrain of La Paillasse introduced by Asa Callow of MadLab.
Deptford Market DNA FoodLab
Friday 15 March, 9am-2pm
“Get your extracted vegetable DNA here, three for a pound and I can’t say fairer than that”. As the Lab Easy rolled to a close, we took the show on the road with a visit to Deptford Market. Armed with a battery of ad-hoc biological tests, travel-ready DIY lab equipment and some tasty produce we brought some wholesome Lab Easy flavours to the streets of South East London.
Family DIY Microscopy and Water Bear Hunting
Saturday 16 March, 2-4pm
Children & Families came to The Arts Catalyst to hunt for tiny microscopic creatures called Water Bears and then made their own USB microscope allowing them to see their bear-like figure.
KiiCs (Knowledge Incubation in Innovation and Creation for Science) is a 3-year European Commission-funded project.