Can DIY biology change the world?
In a sea full of innovation, failures and far-fetched ideas most scientists face an obstacle. That obstacle is the likelihood of rejection. Rest assured, the emergence of the DIY biology movement fosters individuals to participate in a world of life science, no matter what their circumstance, where the possibilities are limitless. The appeal of DIY biology stems from lowered costs, the entertaining factor and its educational advantages. As costs fall, levels of innovations rise. The aim of this work is to discuss why DIY biology has become the new hype, its possibilities and criticisms. With the rapid expansion of biohacking comes enthusiasm, excitement and unease. Whilst its success is dependent upon its contributors, one must question whether DIY biology’s risks outweigh its innovations. To summarize, DIY biology is a powerful movement that has the potential to change the world.
Current trends suggest that DIY biology aims to benefit not only humans, but the world. With insulin costs rising and a decrease in production, the first to be greatly affected are third world countries. Many biohackers work to democratise pharmaceuticals, like Alex Kelly, a biohacker in charge of an open-source insulin project. Moreover, take rare diseases or cancers for example. Access to technology could enable one to produce a personalised treatment. One’s genome can then be sequenced so that the body can respond effectively to a specific treatment. The medicine can only be tested on that one individual, and will not go through clinical trials, but this does not matter as it is not designed to be commercially manufactured. Whilst some say we should fear what could go wrong, biohackers claim we should be scared of the fact that people are dying because they have not been granted the opportunity to use this technology. Major breakthroughs have been made through scientists experimenting on themselves, for example Albert Hofmann. Hofmann was the first to synthesise and ingest lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).
From an educational point of view, what better way to learn than to do something for yourself. Actively participating in experiments and observing processes for yourself helps to widen knowledge and question what you do not know. Curiosity often leads to inspiration. Inspiration can then lead to discovery.
So, can DIY biology can change the game for scientific innovation? A search for new talent and fresh ideas could lead to a phenomenal advance with limitless possibilities. Some would even argue that regulations inhibit biotechnological growth. “Real innovation and creativity is very difficult to achieve when someone else is deciding what the purpose of your work is,” says Jorgensen. It is a chance for individuals to self-educate in the world of life science. So how can DIY biology expand? The simple answer would be wider acceptance, and support for these curious thinkers.
To conclude, despite the drawbacks, DIY biology has the potential to revolutionize the ways in which we learn, invigorate innovation and could make the 21st century the era of biological advancement. If we only focus on what will happen if technology is used in the wrong way, we will be ignoring a chance at major success. A potential solution to its criticisms would be to enforce bioethical training to have a consolidated international approach to home-grown biology. Singapore, for example, are contemplating the use of ethical and risk assessments which people will have to pass before becoming a part of the biohacker community. Such ideas allow for the growth and development of DIY biology whilst preventing danger. A quicker, free movement of science could move something we believe to be worked out in 15 years, to 6 months. The movement is still in its early stages but could massively grow with wider acceptance.