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Freelance Biohacker

Overview

For over a century since the days of the Victorian amateur innovators, science has been a closed shop, by professional teams working in university and research and development departments. Now the rise of the internet and an explosion of opensource platforms has democratised the sector, citizen scientists to log onto sites such as to do everything from discovering new planets building new molecules. And this is only the beginning. Businesses are waking up the potential power of crowd-sourcing as solutions to medical and technological challenges and are amateur scientists to get involved in finding vaccines or sequencing DNA. In the US, Genspace Biohacking Lab has launched as the non-profit community lab in the country, providing, equipment and software to allow freelance to explore projects that corporate research has as unprofitable or too speculative. An open-source gene-editing tool called CRISPR is allowing of scientists around the world to collaborate searching for treatments for depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s. ‘It was this approach, rather than Big Science, that gave the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas-9, which is going to the breakthrough of the decade,’ says Hank Campbell, of the American Council on Science and Health. Synthetic biology start-up Bento Bio has created the Bento, the first mobile DNA laboratory. Funded by a successful campaign, the product went on sale in 2016 a mission to revolutionise citizen science by allowing to experiment with DNA. Co-founder of Bento Lab, Bethan Wolfenden, says the lab being used by field scientists to diagnose deadly diseases as Ebola and Zika, track wildlife poachers through their, and study the evolution of crickets in the Alps. It is also being used by hobbyist scientists to explore their DNA or test new foods and craft beers, by foragers mushrooms, and farmers testing animals. The US government has recognised the opportunity for and scientific breakthroughs represented by of hobbyists investigating their pet obsessions, and introduced the Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act 2015 to encourage the use of citizen science within the government. At the same time, educators are beginning to teach the generation of graduates and students how to make a out of citizen science. Biohack Academy, an education at the Waag Society Amsterdam, is an opensource available at labs all over the world. Danielle Wilde, associate professor of design research at University of Southern Denmark, Kolding, says, ‘It will students to grow their own fuel, food, filaments,, fragrances, and fungi by learning how to, grow and extract your own biomaterials.’ By 2025, citizen science will have evolved from home hobby into a global sector that provides freelance careers millions of graduates with solid bioscience backgrounds an inquisitive and entrepreneurial attitude to work.

Job Description

Freelance Biohackers will be at the cutting edge of tomorrow’s most exciting bioscience projects, playing a key role in projects ranging from the search for the next generation of antibiotics to the creation of genetically modified creatures. ‘The basic procedures for targeted gene manipulation are getting simpler and more accessible to almost anyone,’ says Hank Greely, director of Stanford University’s Center for Law and the Biosciences. ‘It isn’t hard to imagine a future where we’ll fix everything from eye problems to liver disorders to muscular dystrophy with targeted genetic tweaks. ‘I’m willing to bet that within 20 years, some biohacker will create a unicorn. He’ll take genes from an animal that grows horns, insert it into a horse and a billionaire’s 12-year-old daughter will get a unicorn for her birthday.’ Working from home, or from the growing number of freelance work hubs, freelance biohackers will work on open-source software platforms with hundreds, even thousands, of others in hive-like teams. University research departments and major drug and bioscience companies will use them to piece together complex DNA-based answers to some of the big questions of the next decade, from treatments for cancers in ageing populations to vaccines for new epidemics fuelled by our globalised culture and accelerating climate change. As Hank Campbell of the American Council on Science and Health says, ‘These mavericks and freelancers are the future of applied biology because large drug companies often won’t tackle problems that they fear won’t generate a large enough profit.’ Dr Darren Nesbeth, a synthetic biologist at UCL, predicts that biohackers will fuel major scientific breakthroughs because, unlike professionals in academic institutes, they can spend their time brainstorming and indulging in creative, blue-sky thinking rather than teaching and writing papers. Creating mythical creatures for billionaire patrons may be one approach for biohackers who seek to make a living from home with a laptop and a state-of-the-art software system, but their DIY DNA skills will be put to more noble uses too. Feng Zhang, co-creator of gene editing innovator CRISPR, believes that biohackers will help to save – or even bring back from extinction – species of wild and domestic animals as an expanding global human population puts pressure on biodiversity through habitat destruction. An understanding of scientific and medical methodology,combined with training in advanced data analytics, will be core skills for graduates who dream of a career as a biohacker in the decade ahead. The ability to work naturally, non-competitively and collaboratively with large virtual teams that you will never meet in person will be a key personal characteristic too, alongside patience, an eye for detail and a talent for making intuitive, leftfield leaps of the imagination. But in a field that is likely to remain lightly regulated to encourage innovative thinking and unusual approaches, people from outside traditional science and medical disciplines will have the freedom to play a leading freelance role in major projects. As Todd Kuiken, an environmental scientist, says, ‘Leading bio-scientists increasingly feel that they don’t need a PhD to be a scientist. ‘They believe that any sharp, scientifically inclined mind can contribute to the body of science – and that the more minds that are dedicated to solving the world’s scientific problems, the faster we’ll solve them.’ Kuiken is certain that the growing citizen biohacking community will set its own codes of conduct to address worries about the ethics and morality of their work. ‘Professional scientists tend to only think about the ethical implications of their work after their research has been completed,’ he says. ‘The DIY bio community started organising early on to establish its own safety and ethical principles because it is naturally collaborative and in constant conversation about what it’s doing, and why.’ Many people already working in the early versions of the biohacking field believe that future biohackers will hold the best hope of game-shifting science and technology breakthroughs because they are not tied down by the bureaucracy of mainstream research. Josiah Zayner, scientist, biohacker, and founder of biotech company The Odin, says, ‘Corporate and academic researchers have to fill in a million forms, wasting a tonne of money and time in the process. ‘This holds back really radical research, and people are dying and suffering because of all these rules and committees. ‘In the future, people like me are going to say: ‘We’re going to do it anyway and start curing people because we know that we can.’ ‘Give people access to these tools and technology and we’ll let them loose to change the world.

Application Form

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