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Can Citizen Scientists Make Biotech More Efficient? Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life

Marcus Wohlsen's book, Biopunk, looks into the DIY science on kitchen counters that could change the way we think about biotechnology.


The vaccine for swine flu—better known as the H1N1 virus—relies on a rather ineffecient process. It involves raising chicken eggs in a clandestine network of farms—a so-called "feathered Manhattan Project"—then infecting the eggs and incubating them. The chicken and the eggs both get destroyed. What if amateurs had a hand in creating a better biotechnology?

In Marcus Wohlsen's new book, Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life, he explores the biohackers bringing science from the lab bench table to dining room tables. Some of the tinkerers want to build better cancer drugs or melamine detectors out of jellyfish and yogurt. In an excerpt published on NPR, Mackenzie Cowell, of DIYbio, tells Wohlsen:

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Researchers Unveil the Woodland Strawberry Genome. Are Designer Fruits Next?

Researchers recently unveiled the genome of the woodland strawberry. That could transform the apples, apricots, and almonds of the future.

Researchers recently unveiled the genome of the woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca), identifying 240 million base pairs that make up its unique flavor and nutrition. This genetic understanding could revolutionize fruits beyond just strawberries; the F. vesca genome is one of the smallest known hereditary codes in the Roseaceae family, a family encompassing thousands of varieties of apples, pears, quince, cherries, and raspberries. The woodland strawberry genome could serve as a starting point for understanding the genetic building blocks of many of the fruits we eat.

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