Oliver Medvedik, Ph.D. | Co-Founder | Genspace

Genspace is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting citizen science and access to biotechnology. Since 2009 they have served the greater New York area by providing educational outreach, cultural events, and a platform for science innovation at the grassroots level. In December 2010 they opened the first-ever community biotechnology laboratory, a Biosafety Level One facility in Brooklyn, New York, where they offer hands-on courses to the public, provide extracurricular experiences for students, and encourage scientific entrepreneurship, particularly in the fields of molecular and synthetic biology. As a community-based lab, they offer members the unique opportunity to work on their own projects and experience the joy and wonder of science firsthand.

Me: Tell me something about yourself, the team you worked with to build Biocurious and why did you build it?
Medvedik: I’m working as a Professor of Biology & Bioengineering and I teach courses at Cooper Union. It happens several years ago, my colleague has a separate lab then we decided to be partners and put up a lab that would be available with architects and designers to work on projects in biotechnological angle, but it’s not that easy at first at the year 2008 - 2009.

Me: How did you find the space and funding? 
Medvedik: It was in 2010, so we have this enthusiasm of opening a lab and we found this space accessible to work people. We put up this lab by getting funds on our own pocket. Our first equipment was even bought on ebay or has been donated.

Me: Was building the Biocurious community hard? Who is/was part of the community? 
Medvedik: Well, challenges, people using its own projects.
The hard part is to look for someone to be there all of the time to help and then as time goes by, there was an easy point which is people show up by word of mouth.
It was an easy thing to start but a hard thing to keep going. Over the years, hundreds of people are taking classes to us, 100 or more members. But as of the moment, 20 members are only actively paying dues every month.

Me: What types of equipment did you find you needed and what were the challenges? 
Medvedik: Mammalian Tissue Calculator and some other must equipment.And also there was a PCR machine donated by a lab that I worked at before. Main challenge is political.

Me: What types of projects have you and the Garage lab, DIYBio & Biocurious team worked on? 
Medvedik: Well, with the past couple of years, there are a lot of projects already that we had.
One is iGem, it’s an ongoing event every year. It is dedicated to education and competition, advancement of synthetic biology, and the development of open community and collaboration.
At 2011 with the collaboration of Cooper Union, we had this project to examine bacteria to produce small chitin. One of our projects as well is getting samples from Gowanus Canal, a toxic river in NY City.

Me: What do you see as the future for biohacking in the U.S. and globally? 
Medvedik: In New York City, there are a lot of big challenges, also little bit of lack too, getting the right people together, get lucky fantastic guy, rent a space cheaply. Pretty good future, technology is maturing into a point to a more and more facing giant market of biotech.

Oliver: “Not just for investor but also in general, funding out with science is a great way to get discoveries made”