New Carlsbad “Germinator” Opens for Startups as DIY Biology Blooms

7/9/13Follow @bvbigelow

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be able to work on what they want to work on,” Jackson says.

“We represent an opportunity where they can come in with their idea, and very inexpensively come up with results,” says Lustig, who adds that he has been struggling to devise a catchy name that would perfectly describe the lab’s focus on early stage biotech research.

“It’s not really an incubator; our focus is on an earlier stage than that,” Lustig says.

I make a suggestion: How about “germinator?”

Lustig says he loves it, but who knows if it will stick? (It might seem too Schwarzeneggery, like “The Hot Zone” meets “The Terminator.”)

While the term “citizen science” arose in the ‘90s, the ethos has been around for centuries, encompassing the self-funded experiments of Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin, as well as contemporary efforts to crowdsource the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and protein-folding problems.

Joseph Jackson (left) and Kevin Lustig

Jackson says that in more recent years, citizen science has spread its tendrils into mainstream biotechnology. Examples extend from the GenSpace community lab in New York City to LA Biohackers in downtown Los Angeles and Counter Culture Labs, a meetup group seeking to establish a biotechnology room of their own in Oakland, CA.

Jackson says he became passionate about changing the infrastructure of biotechnology while studying how file-sharing had transformed the Internet as an undergrad at Harvard. He learned there was this parallel development in biology, and has watched the DIY biology movement become a global phenomenon. To launch the BioCurious lab in Silicon Valley, Jackson and other founders raised $35,000 through a Kickstarter campaign.

In an e-mail, Jackson explains that BioCurious embodied one of the first attempts to bring citizen science into a biotechnology lab. “We had to learn as we went along,” he writes. “Now that I am launching version 2.0 here [in Carlsbad], we have already made many adjustments, especially focusing more on entrepreneurship and creating revenue streams for the lab itself (almost like a mini CRO that will pick up paying gigs to help fund operations).”

In our interview, he explains, “We’re at that point where it feels like something has to change because of ‘pharmageddon’ and that whole implosion of the biotech industry. We’re trying to … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Gaby Dow

    Great article Bruce, I’m at a StartupCircle meeting as I write this (Joe Jackson is the featured speaker) and your article came up as a discussion point!

    All of the entrepreneurs here are very excited about the democratization of biotech and the innovation it will unlock. It is also exciting that this is possible due to the City of Carlsbad’s vision and understanding that these startup hubs need to be fostered and supported with long-term vision.