Biohackers are applying a hacker approach on biology including that of the human body. Bionyfiken is a Swedish network of biohackers. Hannes Sjöblad from Bionyfiken explains what biohackers do – and why.
Hello Hannes, what is BioNyfiken? – Bionyfiken is network of persons interested in biohacking - which means that we apply a hacker approach on all things biology including the human body. The Swedish biohacker community is a very diverse group of people with different backgrounds and interests: experienced lab researchers, quantified self-enthusiasts, body modifications artists, chip implantees, makers, grinders, and fitness- and performance optimisers. This is a bubbling scene, when these groups come together in the same room, incredibly creative interactions happen. The DIY-Bio Lab was recently inaugurated – what will you be doing there? – In the DIY-Bio lab at Stockholm Makerspace, we will run projects relating to synthetic biology, DNA-sequencing and human-machine interaction. The lab is open for anyone to use, no formal background in research is required. The purpose is to inspire people of all backgrounds and ages to learn how to tinker with biology. What do you envision for the future of the field? – As the readers of this blog knows, the entire biotech sector is developing at breakneck speed. But biotech, unlike IT, is still seen as a closed sector only accessible to people with specialised training wearing white lab coats. At the same time, a massive democratization is taking place in terms of access to powerful biotechnology tools and methods due to the falling prices of lab equipment. This is already underpinning a wave of small-scale entrepreneurship and innovation with similarities to the IT sector in the 1970-80s. An example is Indie.bio, the world’s first Synthetic Biology accelerator. The difference between now and then is that today we have the internet which connects biohackers in California, Ireland and Stockholm at moments notice making the developments and knowledge sharing much more rapid than in the 1980s. What do you want to achieve with your commitment? – Our ambition is to inspire makers, inventors and entrepreneurs to look into independent projects, as well as educate the broader public on consumer type opportunities of biotech. We want to create a dynamic biohacker community in Sweden that help foster innovation and development in a distributed, democratic fashion. Last but not least, how come your are so fascinated by biohacking, how did it start? – I first encountered biohacking when attending Singularity University in 2010 and was immediately fascinated. Biotechnology holds the greatest promises to address the very biggest problems humanity is facing: death and disease, affordable nutrition for all, species extinction and our confinement to the wonderful but tiny planet Earth. How can one not be thrilled by the opportunity to address humanity's greatest challenges?