Gerd Moe-Behrens's insight:
"Silicon is so passé. Those who are truly au courant in the coding world are working with carbon—specifically DNA, that most ancient and elegant of codes. Such biohacking is central to the rapidly expanding field of synthetic biology, a term that somehow seems a little threatening to many of us who are the products of the old fashioned kind of biology that’s been around since the planet first managed to gin up a few primitive prokaryotes 3.5 billion years ago.
That’s especially because messing around with DNA is increasingly a garage band kind of venture. The basic techniques and technology are now sufficiently disseminated so that any reasonably bright and inquisitive person can do all kinds of interesting things in a home or community lab. And—gulp—might that not include weaponizing Ebola or involve some other highly anti-social endeavor?
Relax (really). Those fears are overblown, opines Nina DiPrimio, the editor of BioCoder, a quarterly published by and for the DIYbio (as in, Do It Yourself biology) community.
In the first place, says DiPrimio, endowing viruses with new and ever-more-lethal characteristics requires the kind of equipment and skill sets usually found only in large government or corporate labs. Second, if anyone wants to attempt it, the mischief-maker wouldn’t need to figure out how to manipulate Ebola or HIV. Relatively simple procedures already are known for weaponizing basic old anthrax, or manufacturing and distributing astoundingly powerful poisons such as ricin, or—well, you get the idea.
“It takes a lot of skill and equipment to do bad things” with gene-spliced microbes says DiPrimio, until recently a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley and the co-organizer of the university’s Synthetic Biology Super Group. “A DNA cloning class won’t teach you how to create something pathogenic. That isn’t to say potential dangers should be ignored. At a certain point, regulation (of homegrown biohacking) is likely. We don’t know what that will look like, but the community is aware of it and discussing it.”
DiPrimio is also deeply concerned about safety within these do-it-yourself operations. BioCoder’s articles include pointers to ensure one’s lab is legal, and emphasize basic protocols so tyro researchers don’t burn, blow up or electrocute themselves. But first and foremost, the publication serves as an agora for the biohacking community...."