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Interview with a Biohacker | Sarah Ware | TEDxNaperville

so my definition of biohacking is very
broad biohacking to me is doing sound
in unconventional places like my kitchen
or someone’s back shed or a community
lab and what is what do you mean by
sound science so actual science that’s
reproducible that is original research
that is contributing new information and
how did biohacking start overall
biohacking is very new most people have
not heard of it or not in the context
that I do it it started about 10 years
ago there is a space in New York called
Jenn space another space that kind of at
the same time came about called bio
curious in California so it’s pretty new
so if it’s only started 10 years ago why
why so why is it so know what’s what’s
the significance of now versus 20 years
ago right because the barrier to entry
right now is very low so the equipment
cost have come down there are places to
get used equipment and just overall new
equipment costs have gone way down from
what they used to be and so now it’s
totally possible to get on the ebay or
go to university
University auctions and get inexpensive
equipment now you mentioned since you’re
talking about equipment and home labs I
think we have an image if they can pop
up of the thing you put your hands in
what do you call that thing yes so I
call it a portable semi sterile hood and
the two people who came up with it and
shared it with me call it a dead air box
and they are with by nomaka the idea is
that you need to have sterile conditions
a lot of times in a molecular lab and
this allows pretty sterile conditions
and a laminar flow hood is what you
might use otherwise what’s standard but
those are thousands and thousands of
dollars this is a sterile light
container that I picked up at Meijer cut
out some holes for the arms and then you
can just spray with
bleech inside and you have a sterile
environment to work in and I want to
come back to something I meant asked
earlier is when you talk about
biohacking how did you become a
I know this is interesting yes so I had
a very kind of nice research position
and I didn’t fit into corporate soccer
so I was fired from my position and I
missed research I felt compelled to do
research I feel like I’m pretty good at
it and so I just decided to create my
own lab at home would you
we talked earlier that you had trouble
fitting in to the science industry and
what are the issues that you see that
other people like you have or biohackers
have so some of my ideas are not kind of
normal ideas and that’s just how it is
plainly so and all of us are kind of in
the same boat so biohackers I kept
having ideas having ideas being told no
no no that’s not been done before you
can’t do that that’s not possible
so banging my head against the wall and
so I that was that was the problem
and we talk to all you mentioned it’s
similar to entrepreneurs who twenty
years ago it was a new thing with an
entrepreneur somebody that doesn’t fit
into the corporate environment so you’re
saying it’s very similar in the science
you’re just entrepreneurs that don’t fit
into the typical science yeah that’s
absolutely true now we talk about the
equipment of the I forgot the name of it
that you think you put your hands in
yeah the dead air box there’s a header
box now when we talked earlier about
that bio hacking is so new how about
some of the other equipment if they can
put up the image of the if you can
explain with this the MU ion or minion
or whatever it’s called if you can talk
about that
so yeah the min I on I brought one with
me this is a minyan it is for sequencing
genomes and so this plugs in it’s got a
USB port you can plug it into your
computer and it was actually used this
morning in bioblaze community bio lab
which is my biohacking space to sequence
parts of an organism no I’m fascinated
because it’s a USB I mean when you look
at the USB that to me that just sits so
commercial for you know residential or
for consumers how much what explain
liberal weirdy to what this does
specifically so this is fascinating how
it works
yeah okay so it’s using nanopores
and basically the environment within a
little vesicle in here is different pH
than environment outside and so you can
actually thread strands of DNA through
these little pores and that the change
in pH is going to actually be giving
kind of a sound a little bit and that’s
what’s recorded by the computer and it’s
super fast and you know it we did it
this morning like I said at the lab
through a USB port on your laptop
exactly and five ten years ago how could
you have done this ten years ago well
let’s say that so the Human Genome
Project is something that probably all
of you know about that finished in 2003
it took 13 years to complete the first
sequenced human genome and it was 2.7
billion dollars this unit costs one
thousand dollars and you can do this in
a day basically so I know people are
probably asking and let’s jump into the
different subgroups of by hacking and I
know we want you to talk about your
dress so the dress that I’m wearing
right now is considered a bio textile so
that’s one facet of biohacking
this dress was made by Sasha Lauren of
Kombucha couture and she designed it
especially for this event for me so that
was super awesome ever but it’s made
from a kombucha scops kombucha scoby and
I don’t know if we have a picture if you
guys know what that looks like but it
looks like just a big slimy layer I
brought some with me that you can see
after you know all the talks are
and she takes yes so this this this
thing in the middle
that’s a kombucha scoby it’s a cellulose
layer that’s actually spun by yeast and
it’s some completely organic bio
degradable and this dress is actually
most of it is edible and it comes from a
fashion fashion farm yes sasha has a
fashion farm at UC Davis and what else
does it do with the picture of the the
container so kombucha is a fermented tea
that you know you may some of you may
have bought at the stores and things but
something else that we have done with it
is used it for bio packaging I taught a
class called bio hacking at Benedictine
this past summer of Superfund and we did
a lot with kombucha so instead of a
plastic bag we decided to package up
split pea soup ingredients into a
kombucha scoby
and so it’s reusable it’s actually even
edible and you know you’re not having
I want to jump into something so ten
years ago to sequence the genome you
look at it billions now it’s a thousand
dollars I think a lot of people might
think that’s kind of scary and and
what’s what’s your thoughts on that what
are some scary things that could happen
right I get it that people might think
it’s a little scary that people are
doing this in their homes or sheds but
and it’s true I mean it’s you could do
horrible things with this but I’m here
to tell you that I sleep well at night
because I know hundreds of biohackers
and no one is doing that everyone is
just trying to disrupt the way science
is done and just better the world really
not to scare people but I don’t one of
your favorite questions was what’s the
greatest advantage of biohacking
and your answer right biohacking is
unregulated at this time and I think
that is the greatest advantage it is is
there a lot of unregulated meaning that
there’s no standards or the government
standards or right no one knows what to
do with us
is this such a new movement the FBI has
actually visited my community lab
they’re cool they just wanted to be like
we know you’re here I’m like great come
back any time
so they don’t really know what to do
with it so the FDA has made some
statements about some things that
biohackers have done or wanted to there
are sometimes treating products of
biohacking as drugs which are their
animals but they don’t know what to do
with them so they’re saying they’re like
drugs and there’s just not a framework
for this and it’s just fascinating that
it’s it’s so new and you want to show
your tattoo we’re gonna show it that’s
about so one tattoo it’s the DNA
molecule so I’m pretty sure mitad it’s
right true
the true bark of a biohacker now with
our discussions is it safe to say by
hacking is like it’s like the Wild West
it is like the Wild West but it’s a lot
of fun now
to flip the scary sight because to me
it’s both terrifying yet fascinating how
about you share some of the more
positive benefits of having sound
science and your garage or your shed or
your kitchen sure there are so many
stories I could tell that are positive a
couple my couple of my friends are HIV
positive and they are trying to cure
themselves because no one else has a
cure for them so they have a company
called assonance biomedical and we’re
collaborating with them other labs are
collaborating and they’re they’re
actually making a lot of exciting things
are coming out of their lab now how
about you talked about the open insulin
project can you tell a little bit about
that sure yes the open insulin project
is it started by bio curious and
counterculture labs in California but
it’s also a project that is a community
project everything we do is open source
so there there’s no secrets there’s no
competition we’re all just trying to
help each other and the idea is that you
know everyone knows the cost of insulin
is very high and the statistics are that
50% of people who actually need insulin
to live do not have access to it so that
means 50% of the people are dying this
is terrible we are not standing for that
and so the open insulin project is a
project to try to make the cost of human
insulin affordable for everybody so
you’re saying that anybody out here
could make their open dead air box spend
a thousand dollars a sequence or go in
their kitchen and be part of a project
to event to be part of a group to find
an open source insulin absolutely so
biohacking totally levels the playing
field you don’t have to have a science
background a degree you don’t have to
have a degree at all it’s really for me
is providing lots of hope
all you have to do is want to help out
you know everyone’s welcome in my lab to
do whatever kind of research that you
know they want to do yeah what is this
big pharma I’m assuming they’re not fans
of what you’re doing group yeah no I
don’t know if I would even say that
because they think we’re not even on the
radar a big pharma but we will be can
you pull the pull up the the epi pencil
because I think this is a this to me is
really fascinating what your your
community is doing if you can explain
this right so kind of along the same
lines is the open insulin project the
EPI pencil the instructions are now
available for download and my friend
Michael at for thieves vinegar lab has
just created a very inexpensive auto
injector for epinephrine and it’s a DIY
you just download the instructions can
go buy the parts make your own it’s only
a little over $30 and this is the same
EpiPen that big pharma was charging $700
and you can make do it yourself at home
right yeah yeah that’s the that’s the
fun part about the wild wild west and
okay and with that there’s a neat thing
you did about the patient zero with
elementary school kids if you can pull
up the the zombie kit if you can explain
that right so um I’m a researcher a
scientist but I’m also an educator I
teach at universities in the area I also
teach wherever people will let me talk
about science so I go into elementary
schools and this is kind of an example
of some kind of workshops that we do
it’s called who’s the zombie and it’s
really a patient zero epidemiology
workshop for elementary school kids and
so they get cups of lotion and then they
shake hands with three other kids they
track who they’ve shaken shook hands
with and then in the end one of those
had some starch and you can just add a
little a adenine and find out who was
the original zombie and who have been
who are that now the zombies who have
been infected by the original zombie so
this is kind of a things that we like or
you know
lab does and that’s basically because it
there’s an adult I wouldn’t have no idea
how to do that of finding patient zero
uh yeah that that’s it out of time but I
want to thank you for sharing that with
with us and you will be walking around
at the speaker corner and you will have
your kombucha scoby so people can see
what it’s about I brought all kinds of
goodies to show everybody yeah and thank you so much thank you
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