Biomakespace, a volunteer-led non-profit community biology lab and open hardware prototyping space, has won a prestigious Mozilla Open Science Foundation grant to fund training and access to gene editing technology for non-biologists. The project is led by Abigail Wood and will bring open microbiology research and innovation to the lab in Cambridge!


The fund will purchase a new Oxford Nanopore MinION sequencer and supporting IT infrastructure, which will be publicly available for use in open science projects from July 2019. The grant also funds an in-depth series of theory and practical workshops introducing new users to the MinION, running from late October through November. These workshops will primarily target members of the public with limited biology background, to enable new users to explore and participate in this exciting technology!

The curriculum will include topics such as applications of gene editing, ethical implications, experimental methods and design, and computational data analysis. More specifically, as a first project, we will identify target genes in DNA in an organism expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) and then CRISPR gene editing will be used to edit the relevant gene to change the colour of the fluorescence expressed. We’ll then identify the change in the DNA sequence and attempt to analyse any off-target effects using the MinION sequencer, as well as exploring some of the bioinformatics tools used to predict gene and protein product structure and functions. 

Publicly-available datasets, open hardware, and good open-science practices will be used throughout the project, and all training materials will be made available online via GitHub so the wider community can benefit. Applications for training participants will open in August 2019, so keep an eye on the Biomakespace site and newsletter for further announcements.

Meanwhile, the new sequencer will be put to good use, as it’s already scheduled for its first outing as part of the Cambridge Metagenomics Challenge on Sunday 28th July and 11th August, in a collaborative project organised with PuntSeq, who are on a mission to sequencing and identify bacterial communities living in the River Cam and affecting water quality. A second project, ScobySeq, which focuses on food microbiology by exploring the bacteria and yeast present in sourdough starter cultures is also in the early planning stages.

If you’d like to talk about using the MinION in a project, contributing to the training curriculum, or volunteering as a workshop demonstrator, please contact abigail@biomake.space.


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