On the icy morning of the first of december in Paris, the Museum des Arts et Métiers, which hosts the most amazing experiments and inventions of Homo sapiens sapiens since antic times, was about to welcome the venue of dozens of biology amateurs from the whole Europe, gathering where once amateurs and independent researchers in the last centuries used to come for sharing discoveries and new tools. The DIYbio Europe kick-off meeting was about to start.
“DIYBio communities are sprouting everywhere around the world and Europe is quickly becoming one of the places with the largest number of them”, co-organizer Thomas Landrain (La Paillasse, France) stated at the opening. While the DIYbio spirit was first ignited on the US coasts four years ago, Europe has been witnessing during the past 2 years the creation of a large number of community labs focused on the creative use of biology. Thomas testified that this gathering of the contributors to the DIYbio spirit in Europe was called this soon because it makes sense in “small” Europe to create strong physical links between the current and future DIYbio labs. “We need to gather more momentum in order to deal with more ambitious projects at the European scale. We’re here to create what is going to become the first amateur biology european network. Exciting times!” concluded Thomas. Despite the fact that a clear definition of DIYBio, if any necessary, might still be lacking, one thing is for sure: all attendees share a strong tendency towards independent, open and alternative ways in biotechnology. Everyone is very keen on learning from each other and explore potential collaboration opportunities.
In the beginning all the participants introduced themselves and explained their motives for traveling all the way to Paris. Even some people who were not able to make the trip joined the conversation via Skype. Cathal Garvey spoke from Cork (Irland) on his own experience in setting up a lab, the importance of peer-reviewed open science and the potential lobbying benefits of setting up a more formal European DIY Bio association. Streaming live from Copenhagen, Rüdiger Trojok presented his DIY “gene gun” and advocated a distributed, more informal cooperation model. Right after that, Pieter van Boheemen, gave a short presentation on the latest work at the Dutch DIY Bio group in Amsterdam, with some suggestions on European projects. The London biohackers group then presented their space using a BBC documentary video made about them. Gunter from Vienna (Austria) presented the Pavillon35 group and the morning session was finalized by Thomas who presented La Paillasse and the (busy) program of the afternoon.
What is pushing forward diverse communities together are common goals and projects. After a typical french baguette lunch, the afternoon was going to be used for the creation of realistic projects that addresses motivations and needs of the participants. Those projects were to be made so that they could be realistically performed during the year 2013. To facilitate discussions four questions were raised and three groups set out to come up with a proposal of project each:
- What problems/issues do you want to resolve?
- What constrain is limiting you from doing so?
- Think of a crazy project you would like to do
- Think of a project you could do alone
All answers were written on post its, shuffled, filtered and discussed. This enabled the creation of clusters of ideas and concerns which will turn into focused projects to develop. The afternoon finally led to four brand new European DIY Bio projects! More information on these projects will follow on this website soon:
- An DIYBio community DYIBio starter kit, including all basic means for producing the consumables need for genetics.
- Environmental biology quests, challenging people from all over Europe to find specific bacteria with characteristics of interest in their backyard and reporting their data on a common platform for educational and statistical uses.
- Link DIYBio and the fab community by producing bio-plastics that can be used in 3D printers.
- A new DNA-based communication network, setting up a DNA distribution network between European nodes.
Other issues that were raised included:
- Development of basic biology courses
- Setting up an open database of lab supplies and genetic constructs that can be shared
- Help and insight on local legislation
On sunday La Paillasse opened the lab doors to share a look and feel of their bench in Vitry-sur-Seine. The DIYBio Kickoff meeting concluded in the Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, where an event of le /tmp/lab hacker space took place. We’ll soon add more material regarding the chosen projects. Stay tuned!!
We are all very excited by the outcome of this meeting. For the first time, dozens of DIYbio enthusiast from the whole Europe worked together on the creation of an international network of amateurs and the projects that will primarily be developed by this network. As a metaphor, we took the group picture in front of one of the very first plane that ever existed, the Avion III of Clement Ader (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clément_Ader). It’s hard to believe this plane could fly and that it prefigured the technical revolutions that permitted the creation of modern aircrafts. It’s probably as hard to believe a bunch of passionate amateurs could actually do something useful. We say let’s show them
Article written by Gunter (Vienna), Pieter (Amsterdam) and Thomas (Paris).