Biotech is moving out of the hands of big pharma and into the homes and offices of amateur bio enthusiasts. What are the possibilities of this trend and how will it impact mainstream science?

26-year-old DIY biological engineer, Cathal Garvey, wants to help drive a new wave of distributed biotechnology where ownership means more than possession but includes the right and opportunity to tinker, improve, crossbreed and share. 

Biotech often brings to mind huge, monolithic companies and hidden, untouchable labs. For some, it conjures images of big pharma tinkering with DNA to make their next blockbuster. Others imagine big agriculture exploiting farmers globally with patents and litigation. It doesn't have to be this way, and for biotech to reach its potential, it can't remain this way.

Biotechnology is the second oldest human technology after stone tools, and it will continue long into the genomic age. Enter bio-hacking: the small or "hobby" scale of biotech. With access to vast knowledge bases like Wikipedia, open-access scientific journals, and with the means to contact experts and enthusiasts worldwide, it is now possible to learn how to "hack" the code of life and create new living things unlike any we’ve seen before.

In his talk at PICNIC Festival 2012, Cathal tackles several points: what has permitted this trend to commence, and what directions will it take? What influence will it have on mainstream science, and what influences will it receive in turn? And most importantly: how do you hack your first living thing at home?

Learn more on Cathal Garvey in an interview with PICNIC  and read more about the aims and impact of DIY bio.

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