Want to sequence DNA yourself? Thanks to a fully funded Kickstarter project, you may soon be able to. London-based Bento Bioworks aims to make a basic DNA analysis laboratory, which it in turn hopes will spur interest in one of science’s fastest growing fields.
For sure, Bento Lab seems like something that children aboard Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Enterprise-D would have played with. But it shows you how far we’ve come in genome research in just a few short years. Just a decade or so ago, equipment for this easily ran into the tens of thousands of dollars: today we’re talking about shrinking it down to a size and price that makes it a viable science fair project.
Bento says its device “allows you to do copy DNA and do basic DNA analysis,” and is being targeted toward a wide variety of potential users, including students, professionals doing field work, and even just curious individuals. It comes with detailed instructions, so as long as you follow them, you too can become a DNA researcher.
No commercial pricing is available, but those who pledge £549 or more (about $800 USD) will be the first to receive a lab from the initial production run. The lab kit includes the device itself, a power cable, handbook, and the Gel Electrophoresis Unit and Blue Light Transilluminator required to perform tests.
An additional £149 (about $215 in the U.S.) gets you the Starter Kit which includes a list of possible experiments and a host of reagents to complete them, laboratory pipettes, cotton swabs for collecting samples, and even six hours of “office hours” support and lifetime community access to discuss your potential projects with experts.
“Biology is a technology that defines us. It creates medicine, food and enjoyment. It touches every aspect of life, it surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the planet together … yet only a small number have access to molecular biology laboratories and specialist knowledge,” Bento Labs writes on its Kickstarter page.
Bento goes on to say that it hopes its lab brings biology to the masses, and especially genome research. As for safety, as long as you wear gloves and follow instructions, the group says it is “perfectly safe.”
The first lab units should ship out in October. However, no time frame for a commercial release has been set.