Bos|Lab the new birth. They are historically one of the first biohacking lab on the planet, previously known as Bosslab. In an area where you can find more biotech companies than anywhere else in the world, it makes quite a lot of sense. And with MIT and Harvard communities around them, they share the very best and up to date science with the people.
The new name, simple and clean, enables the new team to show its commitment to this awesome project: sharing cutting edge science, in a simple way, in a good environment, so that anybody can understand our current world!
Tell me about yourself, the team you worked with to build Boslab and why did you build them?
I recently recieved my Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley. I studied developmental biology and towards the end of grad school I got my first taste of Biohacking when I saw Patrik D’haeseleer give a talk about Counter Culture labs at a synthetic biology seminar on campus. From that moment on I was hooked! After graduating I moved out to Boston in summer 2015 and found the original Boston Biohacking space known as BossLab through meetup.
Around that time I met other driven and talented individuals who were also very passionate about the Biohacker movement. After initiating a couple of journal clubs we got together and decided that we wanted to do more and make the organization more active. Essentially, BossLab got a makeover and in early 2016 we became incorporated as BosLab inc. Our core team consists of 6 which includes Ph.D.s in molecular biology, Software engineers, and designers. We're excited to be a part of the growing Biohacker movement!
How did you find the space and funding?
This was easy for us, because BossLab had already set up lab space at the Sprouts Learning Center in Somerville, MA. This space is owned by Sprouts & Co., a Science Education non-profit which is establishing a project-based public school in the city of Somerville. We are very grateful to have connections with Sprouts & Co. and to have their support in our mission.
Was building the Boslab community hard? Who is/was part of the community?
It was easy to find people who were interested. We started out by running journal clubs and people of different backgrounds participated. We also held our first lab class where we introduced GFP into E. coli to generate green glowing bacteria. Our participants included software engineers, recently graduated Biology majors, and even a Ph.D. in Chemistry!
We have people from various backgrounds involved in BosLab. Some have no biology background but really want to learn molecular biology. Others already have jobs in biotech/academia but either want to do science outreach or start their own projects outside of lab.
What types of equipment did you find you needed and what were the challenges you encountered?
We initially had most of the basic lab equipment, but some were broken or not fully functional. For example, for our transformation lab class, the incubator fluctuated between 30 and 40 degrees Celsius which was not ideal, and we also had to keep it shut by placing a garbage bin next to the incubator door. We recently got a new used incubator that is much more reliable which is something we really need for our current projects in the lab. Luckily it has been easy to obtain second-hand or liquidated lab equipment. Boston is a biotech hub so there are a lot of used equipment available for reasonable prices. Dennis on our team has been instrumental in helping us find useful lab equipment.
What types of projects have you and the Boslab team worked on?
We recently started some exciting new projects in the lab. Raphael, who is one of the BosLab co-organizers started the "Hack the Truffle" project. The goal is to isolate and identify microbes living on truffle mushrooms which produce truffle aromas, study these aroma compounds, and engineer e. coli or yeast to produce these compounds. Matt who is an active member of BosLab is running an exciting proof-of-concept project. Matt and his team are working to engineer yogurt bacteria to produce NAD+, which is an important molecule for metabolism and has been shown to extend lifespan in mice. We're excited to make progress on these projects and start new ones!
What do you see as the future for biohacking in MA and globally?
For the Boston area, it is home to major research organizations and pharma companies. It is hard to find a better place for the Biohacking movement. There is no doubt that the community will flourish here.
As for Biohacking in general, it is playing the same role for biotech as the hacker culture did for the computer industry of the 70’s. It brings molecular biology to people outside of mainstream biotech industry. If the history of computer industry is any indication, then great things await us ahead.
The community has already made immense progress. It started from small groups of people building rudimentary lab equipment and now has moved on to real biology. Our prediction is that you will see more synthetic biology projects in the next couple of years. It is hard to predict what will happen beyond that because of the speed with which science advances.