This Biohacker BBQ Would be Way Cooler With Less Red Tape

Image: Emiko Jozuka
Biohackers in the US might have more freedom when it comes to tinkering with biology. But over in Europe, there’s still a heap of red tape between a would-be biohacker and their next invention.


Toronto and London-based ​biotech startup Synbiota organised a BBQ biohackathon in Oxford this weekend to keep the conversation going about the potentials of citizen biohacking, and the opportunities that EU biohackers would gain from a relaxation in current regulations.

“In Europe the laws are different from North America, where anyone can biohack in their garage. To do synthetic biology here, you need to have a licence from the government,” Conor Dickie, CEO of Synbiota, told me. Such restrictions, he said, place EU biohackers at a disadvantage.

Hundreds of amateur and professional biologists the world over are increasingly taking interest in the biohacker movement. Setting up makeshift laboratories in their homes or in hackspaces, the tribe of biohackers are made up of people keen to democratise science, or just curious to experiment with biology. “Hacking” in this sense refers to a playful and creative approach to biology. In the UK, creations by artists like Amy Congdon, who mashes up biotechnology with design and art to make materials such as tissue engineered te​xtiles, bear testimony to this playful spirit.

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