Genspace: hobbyist biotech space crowdfunds for DNA barcoding - Technical.ly Brooklyn

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Aug. 19, 2013 8:30 am

Genspace: hobbyist biotech space crowdfunds for DNA barcoding

Since launching in late 2010, nonprofit community biolab Genspace is seen as a vehicle for bringing fresh perspective to life sciences issues that are traditionally dominated by established academics or R&D institutions. Today, it's raising funds to be able to digitally barcode hundreds of plant species in Alaska.

Genspace student mentorship program participants.

(Photo courtesy of Genspace)

The coworking and maker space takeover is well documented. But as collaborative communities grow up into other industries, one of the country’s first DIY biotechnology spaces is nearing its third anniversary of opening.

Since launching in late 2010, Fort Greene-based nonprofit community biolab Genspace is seen as a vehicle for bringing fresh perspective to life sciences issues that are traditionally dominated by established academics or R&D institutions. Today, it’s raising funds to be able to digitally barcode hundreds of plant species in Alaska.

“The benefits of having a garage biology or amateur biology movement grow is they start thinking outside the box,” Art Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University, told New Tech City. “They aren’t bound by the accepted wisdom. They don’t care what their elders say can and can’t be done.”

Genspace, located downtown and cofounded by synthetic biologist Oliver Medvedik, is membership based like other, more familiar maker and hacker spaces. Those members can take classes and pursue their own experiments with genetics and non-pathogenic microorganisms.

For example, the venue hosted a three-part session “Biotechnology Crash Course” starting this past weekend. It’s the course recommended for anyone getting started with the lab.

Genspace’s current president, Ellen Jorgensen, is currently seeking crowd funding for the nonprofit to barcode the DNA of hundreds of plant species collected in Alaska’s Skolai Valley, so that plants can be identified in the future by anyone with access to a DNA database, allowing lawmakers to seek protections for specific organisms and environmentalist to track the impact of climate change.

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