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O Brave New World

May 12th, 2009 - 6:01 pm

The WSJ describes the advent of do-it-yourself biohacking. “In Massachusetts, a young woman makes genetically modified E. coli in a closet she converted into a home lab. A part-time DJ in Berkeley, Calif., works in his attic to cultivate viruses extracted from sewage. In Seattle, a grad-school dropout wants to breed algae in a personal biology lab. These hobbyists represent a growing strain of geekdom known as biohacking, in which do-it-yourselfers tinker with the building blocks of life in the comfort of their own homes. Some of them buy DNA online, then fiddle with it in hopes of curing diseases or finding new biofuels. But are biohackers a threat to national security?”

One biohacker was surprised to get a call from someone she didn’t know. “That’s when the phone rang. A man saying he was doing research for the U.S. government called with a few polite, pointed questions: How did she build that lab? Did she know other people creating new life forms at home?”

It would be an interesting problem for Mustapha Mond.

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