GROW YOUR OWN… is a new exhibition created by Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin that invites you to consider some of the potentially ground-breaking applications and uncertain implications of synthetic life. Tackling the provocative questions that designing life raises, GROW YOUR OWN... gives you the opportunity to help shape future discussions around synthetic biology - an emerging approach to genetic engineering, bringing together engineers, scientists, designers, artists and biohackers to design ‘living machines’. 

 

The exhibition is curated by artist and designer Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Anthony Dunne (Royal College of Art), Paul Freemont (Imperial College), Cathal Garvey (bio-hacker) and Michael John Gorman (Science Gallery).

Grow Your Own

Life

As the foundations of a 'synthetic' biology are built, how might designed life merge into our own? Where is the boundary between our things and our selves: the designed products that we consume, and our own bodies and identities? We imagine 'nature' as something untouched by human culture; synthetic biology may dissolve the divide, if it ever existed.

+ read more ...

Grow Your Own

Society

Synthetic biology might change our understanding of design and nature, but it could also change the cultural and biological ecosystems we are part of. Synthetic biologists are engineering organisms, but they are also designing and agreeing the standards and the legal and commercial frameworks that underpin a new technology. Biology doesn't adhere to laws or country borders. Today, patented genetically modified organisms are already grown in many countries. Their tendency to spread or evolve has to be managed using laws and regulations.

+ read more ...

Grow Your Own

Machines

What is a machine? Mechanical parts put together to perform a useful function? Synthetic biologists believe that those parts can be made from biology. Living things were part of machines for thousands of years, from oxen driving ploughs to horses pulling carts. As synthetic biology transforms life into living machines, will mechanical machines, powered by long-dead biology like oil, coal or gas, be a quirk in history?

+ read more ...

Grow Your Own

Interviews

MICHAEL JOHN GORMAN

Director, Science Gallery

Why GROW YOUR OWN...?

A few months ago, a project to create glowing plants ‘using synthetic biology’ was proclaimed as the first step towards ‘sustainable natural lighting’. The project received almost half a million dollars in funding on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Funders in the US only were to be rewarded with seeds allowing them to grow their own glowing plants at home. Although the potential illumination provided by such plants won’t be enough to provide lighting, this is one powerful demonstration of our growing appetite for designed living organisms as consumable commodities. In Utah, ‘spidergoats’ have been created: spider DNA is inserted into their genomes causing the goats to produce a protein in their milk which can be spun into spider silk, a material ten times stronger than steel

+ full interview ...

ALEXANDRA DAISY GINSBERG

Designer, artist & writer researching synthetic biology

What is synthetic biology to you?

At lab benches from NASA to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, from corporate labs in Silicon Valley suburbs to prestigious university departments, from do-it-yourself collectives to Kickstarter-funded start-ups, biologists, engineers, computer scientists and others around the world are streaking out bacteria, designing DNA, modelling biological ‘circuits’, measuring biological ‘parts’, and imagining future products and manufacturing technologies. Together, they are working towards an engineering vision of a designable biology

+ full interview ...

PAUL FREEMONT

Co-founder and co-director of the EPSRC Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation at Imperial College London

What is synthetic biology to you?

Synbio is an exciting new field that fuses the practice of engineering design with the manipulation of biological systems at the genetic level. There have been several major technological advances in life sciences that have resulted in an unprecedented understanding of biological cells at the molecular level. One profound technological development called DNA sequencing allows the rapid automatic ‘reading’ of genetic code or genomes from any living organism (including humans) by a machine. Over the last five years, different technological developments have led to machines that can automatically chemically synthesise large pieces of DNA from its basic building blocks. In fact, it is now technically possible to synthesise and assemble an entire genome for a small microbe in a test tube. This ‘writing’ of DNA has lead to a complete rethink about how we might re-engineer the genetic code of simple cells like microbes and yeast. Synbio builds upon these advances and brings together the practice of engineering design and construction with molecular and cellular biology to allow the building of new genetic programs, and new cells driven by specific applications

+ full interview ...

ANTHONY DUNNE

Head of Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art, London

What is synthetic biology to you?

For me, synbio is about genetic engineering moving out of the laboratory and into the messiness of everyday life via the marketplace. This could potentially lead to all sorts of benefits and improvements in the quality of our lives; but in making this shift it also has to engage with all the stuff that comes with market-led capitalism — rampant consumerism, fantasies and desires rather than needs, irrationality and the profit motive. Somehow, we need to make sure that the short-sighted values currently driving technological development do not destroy the genuine potential of this technology to enrich life

+ full interview ...

CATHAL GARVEY

Biohacker and Science Gallery Leonardo

What is synthetic biology to you?

Biohacking, or DIYbio, has to be one of the most exciting subcultures active today. A network of people worldwide are taking biotechnology out of the lab and making it easier and more hackable. They can then use it to repair, rebuild or replace equipment and protocols to fit the low-budget and sometimes messy world of basement labs. Most people do it for fun, or out of pure curiosity. Others do it to solve problems not serviced by the traditional arms of biotechnology and academia. Others still, do it for political or intellectual reasons. Most have no formal training in biology beyond secondary school (if that), and many are in countries whose institutions don’t have the resources to do much better.

+ full interview ...