Kristina Hathaway




I am Kristina Hathaway and would like to apologize because I think my slides are wy longer. This is a little bit I know, I don't know everyone in the room. I have a long history in biotech and life sciences doing all sorts of things, none of which I am going to talk about today. Today we are talking about biocurious. Joseph talked a little bit about the history about how BioCurious came to be, and he didn't mention the name thing, which is usually the question we get.

We're a hackerspace for biotech. We're still the largest one in the world. We're open 7-days a week in Sunnyvale, California. It's about 60 to 90 minutes from here depending on traffic. What we're all about is, we started because we wanted biology to be accessible. A lot of us share that same sentiment. We're completely community run. All volunteer run, even still, almost a year later.

I'm going to go through these really quick. We are fortunate to have a fair amount of interest and activity. So we talk about DIYbio, democriticizng biotech, we talk a lot about training and education. Because of where we are located, al ot of people who are interested in biology and have absolutely no experience in it. We do lots of training and education, both grownups and small people.

We basically have about three tribes I would call them, of people that tend to use our space. We have entrepreneurs who are serial entrepreneurs or people with an idea of what they want to do, just not developing it at work, or they are between work and they want to play with that idea they've been thinking about. Another third are people that are high-tech interested in biotech. The other third kind of real catch-all category, there are hobbiests, there are high school students, citizen scientists, the next-generation of scientists, basically people under 18, a huge amount of interest in children's education which was really surprising to us, honestly.

What they get from their membership- much like a gym- you get lab space, shared equipment, access to classes, meetings, community events, networking. Like I mentioned, we do a whole lot of training. Here's some of our most successful series that we run. One is a biotech bootcamp where you can come and learn how to do PCR. Some people haven't held a pipettor in their hands since high school, so we say how to hold the pipettor, we start with really basic information. By the end of it, they are able to hold their own with basic protocols. Also, we do one series on biotech as a business. We talk a lot about that. There's also founder's tales, another series where people from life sciences companies give talks about their journey or their path, here's what I thought I was going to do, here's what I ended up doing. Saturday Morning Science is geared for kids. I've done it too. That's another one that we offer. We have the Mad Science Skills for Tweens and Teens. We do a really basic conceptual thing with the little kids, then in the afternoon we dove into more detail with the older kids and adults come to that one as well.

Here's a picture of some woman talking. You can see our space almost. Half of it is set up like a lecture space, it's meant to be flexible in that regard. On the other side you see the actual lab. This is a kid who had a science project, he had waited until the last minute. I would never do that in school. He found a class at BioCurious that was very related to the project that he procrastinated on. His dad was happy, he sat in front and worked on his computer the whole time.

We're fueling the scientific revolution (pic of einstein). Safety is the place where.. when I tell people I'm at BioCurious they say that's great, what about safety? And it echoes. There's a maze of regulations, local, state, federal, county, country if you're outside the US.. this is something that usually makes people's eyebrows go up. Their eyes stay where they are it. It makes their eyebrows go up. We don't do editorial control on experiments. If you come in and say you're interested in something, we're not going to tell you that you're stupid or that someone else has already done it and you shouldn't, we just say that you need to do it safely and you need to do it legally. If you can do it within those guidelines, then you can do it hear. Else, do it somewhere else.

We also make sure people know what they're doing, and we make sure that people have had an orientation and that they have been trained. It's mostly about comfort.

The other thing about community labsi s that if it's really open, and you're working on something, someone will eventually come up to you and ask what you're working on. Then someone comes up and hides all their stuff. There's a huge amount of community oversight that happens, and it's absolutely intentional. If you come in, part of the reason the slide is in there to see how the lab is setup, it's meant to be transparent. When you walk into the lab area, you can see to the other end of the room. That's on purpose. The storage that we use is transparent. We have 'heated' or 'spirited' arguments about what that storage should look like. But by god, it should be transparent so that we can see what people are working on.

After my spiel about how we're safe and why we're okay, I still get push back. So I say: who would you rather have doing biotech? North Korea, or some secret government, or someone working alone in their mother's basement, or some sweet person working in a community lab? Yeah.

Why did we do it? We wanted to democritize biotech. We didn't want ivory towers. You shouldn't need 14 graduate degrees to do science. Some of you do have that, which is cool, but I don't. Access to tools is really important. One of the things I really care about is inspiring that next generation of scientists so that we're growing our own in term of scientific talents. Most importantly is that, I'm really proud that we did something. We talked about it for a really long time, and then we did it, and it was incredibly cool. A little scary but mostly cool.

People tell you that it starts with an idea. It doesn't. It starts with people. I think an idea is great, it's fine, but it doesn't do anything. It's when people do things. That's when stuff happens. If you look, we have really interesting backgrounds that has nothing to do with science. We got some money from Kickstarter. We got volunteers. Volunteer motivation is very different from employee motivation. It's very different. Trading experience for time is okay. We're balancing consensus with doing. We have to talk to some point, but we also have to do something eventually.

We're really fortunate that we got some publicity with our kickstarter campaign. Until we got a call from the planning commission from Mountain View. So they wanted to meet with "the crazy lab hacker people". At the end of the day, the main takeaway was that we were going to Sunnyvale. The list of regulations was so long that we would have had no money left when we opened our doors. So they heard things like "hydroponics, methlab" and all sorts of things.

Joseph mentioned this morning, these were all the buildings we looked at. Oh no, I broke the internet. This one, that one, this is our beautiful building. And really at the end of the day, we didn't do anything different, we just wore our beast business suit instead of showing up in jeans. We found some people that thought what we were doing was cool on the Sunnyvale planning board, and that was what made the difference.

We put a stake on the ground, we said we had some classes from Singularity University. One of our founders, Raymond, is the biotech chair for Singularity University. So we had a date and we freaked out because we had a date and a building and it was empty, and the people were coming. We freaked out, and had Eric from Vancouver help us. We enlisted everyone we knew to come put benches together, we bribed them with babysitting and pizza. People sequenced some of their own DNA, people extracted DNA, then we analyzed the results bioinformatically. There's some pictures.

It wasn't until that first day after people went through the lab, I looked at Raymond and said oh my god this might work. On day 2, I was by myself with Derek explaining genomic privacy. Soemone might recognize someone in that picture. It was George Church, and I was freaking out because I am not a bioinformaticist or an ethicist, and here was the god of genomics sitting there in our group circle looking at me.

A year later, it's evolution in action. We have seen waves of volunteers come in vogue. Sometimes the people that get you there are not the people that take you to the next level. Sometimes that's okay. Viva la scientific revolution.

We have some interesting DIY lab tools. A new gel box. A very popular community projects, that are coming to fruition. A bioprinter project that is happening. A bioluminescence project. Some embryo companies and embryo scientists coming through the lab, these are some of the things we're working on. There's a whole lot of activity. We've also had corporate partners that want to get some visibility and talk to the people talking at biocurious, and they gave us money to let them do that. We said okay.

8-year old genetic engineers. The girl in the top picture is 8 years old. And the man standing behind her is an instructor for an ecoli/gfp class. The men that are flaking her, she's showing them how to do it because she has this experience.

We'd like to bring back the salon scientists, where science is discussed openly and brought into the mainstream. We're working with the synbio startup launchpad, which launched last month. It's a synthetic biology incubator out of Singularity University. We have an Assay Depot contest that is just finishing, and there's a PR thing I was writing this morning listing the winners.

We have more members than we planned on having at this point in time. We have a lower entry point in terms of monthly membership. We do more frequent classes with smaller numbers of students. Some of that means that there's something happening at the lab almost every day. For the people that are attending are getting more hands-on time with the instructor. People are really liking that. If I had to this over again, I would budget more frequent classes, smaller numbers, more often. That tends to work well.

Our Science Morning Science classes are 70% female, and that just makes me happy. Looking back at this, what is the most important thing we've done? It's that we actually finally did it. I know people are at different stages of projects at where you're at, the fact that you're doing something at all, that you're making something happen, that's the most important thing you can do as a movement. It's not a movement unless you move. So. I'm going to skip through all this.

This is where it started, in that garage. Joseph, look familiar? From here, we've been able to do some really cool things. I'm really excited about what we're doing. I'm really excited about what we're doing, and look forward to seeing you guys on Thursday and I'm happy to take any questions that you may have.