Thursday, March 19, 2009

DIYBio is Rolling with Momentum

The DIYbio Community - Presented at Ignite Boston 5 (2009) from mac cowell on Vimeo.

I just found this video on Mac's Vimeo page, and I had to share it. It's like a Cliff notes for the DIYBio community over the past few months. It's great of him to do, because it's not easy to keep up with all the posts on the DIYBio mailing list (so much so that there are now sub-lists to raise the signal to noise ratio).

DIYBio Boston Partnership

I'm very pleased to announce a tentative partnership between the DIYBio Boston iGEM team and the UMass Amherst iGEM team. This will be DIYBio Boston's first foray into iGEM, like us at UMass, but DIYBio Boston member Mackenzie Cowell is no noob to iGEM. He has helped run iGEM since 2006, and all one needs to do is watch one of his iGEM videos on Vimeo to get an idea of how strong his grasp of synthetic biology really is.

Jam08 Live: UC Berkeley - Clonebots from mac cowell on Vimeo.

So, while the partnership is tentative, I think both parties can benefit a lot from such a relationship, and I'm on the edge of my seat with excitement thinking about what we can do.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Microbial Genetics 330

Today in 330 I made a short presentation about iGEM and the UMass iGEM team. I think I met some of the first members of the team today :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

MIT OpenCourseWare

Aspiring biological engineers should check out MIT OCW. It's a free site which hosts a lot of MIT course material, including their biological engineering courses. It's always good to supplement your learning with extracurricular material.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ginkgo Bioworks on Slashdot

An interview of Reshma Shetty of Ginkgo Bioworks (a new-ish biotech startup comprised mainly of MIT grads who worked with Endy on synthbio) was just Slashdotted. It's a good interview - well worth a read (or listen). Props to Andrew Hessel for sending it to the DIYBio mailing list.

Direct link to interview
Slashdot Link

Monday, February 9, 2009

Speaking the Language: Genetic circuit components

One of the most important aspects of synthetic biology is also the most novel - designing biological circuits from standardized component parts. While genetic 'engineering' has been using recombinant DNA technology to produce useful strains of microbes since the 70s, their custom functions were not designed with parts from a repository of standard biological parts, like the Registry of Standard Biological Parts.

The "Part Types" page on has a list of the kinds of parts used in plasmid circuits:

: Reporters, e.g. GFP

: Protein generators, e.g. the Banana Odor Generator from MIT 2006

: Inverters

: Composite Devices

: Signaling

: Measurement

: Ribosome Binding Sites

: Protein Coding

: Regulatory

: Terminators


: Conjugation


: Bioscaffold

Here is a standard mini-circuit for expressing GFP:











As you can see, we have one Regulatory part, one RBS part (Ribosome Binding Site), one Protein Coding part (our GFP), and two Terminator parts. Expressed in a plasmid, this circuit will result in a glowing culture:

Biological circuits can enable a whole host of different abilities, like detecting arsenic in ground water, emitting a banana scent, mediating cell motility with light, etc. I will be profiling past iGEM teams, researching their projects and hopefully shedding light on to how their genetic circuits work.

iGEM 2009 Information

Mac Cowell just made a post on the DIYBio website about iGEM 2009, and it has some useful information (particularly for non-institutional teams). Here is an excerpt:

So, who wants to start an iGEM team? Because iGEM is opening its doors to the wider community of biohackers for the first time this year with a non-institutional teams division. I spoke with Randy Rettberg on Friday about the specifics:

  • Team registration will be $500, due March 31.
  • There will be an additional per-person Jamboree fee later
  • All teams will have access to iGEM Partner deals ($0.20/bp synthesis from GeneArt; MatLab + simbiology toolkit)
  • All teams can request parts from the Registry. Requests will have to be approved by a Safety Committee.
  • Each team will get to present their work with a 5-minute talk and a poster at the Jamboree
  • The Jamboree will be Oct 31 - Nov 2.

For more information about iGEM, visit: