DIY lab lets geeks conduct their own experiments

Science writer Dan Grushkin opened the nation's first community biotech laboratory. At Genspace, biology enthusiasts pay a monthly membership to use the equipment and training facilities.

Don't judge Daniel Grushkin because he used to perform science experiments in his cramped New York apartment. Even though he isn't a typical scientist, the amateur biologist still managed to insert a gene to make bacteria glow green — all from the comfort of his own home.

Ultimately though, the biotech hacker knew that he'd eventually need more space to pursue his future biology projects.

During a routine coffee shop meeting, Grushkin and a few others dreamed up the concept for Genspace. The idea of conducting genetic engineering experiments in an actual lab (instead of someone's apartment) was enough to motivate Grushkin and the others to find a space in New York to make their vision of a DIY lab a reality.

After building out the lab and accepting equipment donations, Genspace recently opened its doors on 33 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

Last week, Grushkin showed me around the chilly, make-shift lab. Built inside of an old warehouse building, the small lab had everything you'd find in a typical biology lab.

It works like a gym membership. People can pay a monthly fee to access to the lab and its amenities. Even if you don't know anything about biology, you can take training classes in biotech and synthetic biology to brush up on your DIY biotech skills.

Genspace might be the first community biotech lab, but these types of laboratories are cropping up in places like San Francisco and Paris. Grushkin thinks amateur biologists will continue to create more formal places to work from, rather than performing experiments at home.

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