Katriona Guthrie-Honea had a great idea.
Last year, as a freshman at Ingraham High School in Seattle, she taught herself enough biology to make a molecular model of a gene-specific biosensor — yes, as a 15-year-old. More than 300 hours of work led the teen-whiz to the grand prize at 2012 NWABR biotech expo.
Even after spending that much time on the project, she didn’t want it to end. For the next three months, Guthrie-Honea tried to find a biotech lab to continue expanding on her idea, but came up empty, mainly due to age restrictions.
Eventually, she landed an internship with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where she could continue working on the biosensor. But her efforts got her thinking about the lack of biotech labs in the area for people in her situation.
“I was really, really motivated to find a place to work, but what about people that have a small idea and kind of want to test it out?” she said. “They’re going to get turned away, right away.”
So she had another great idea: Create the city’s first biotech hackerspace — a community space for anyone to test out their scientific endeavors.
“We are in a innovational stagnation period where biotech is in the same area where the tech boom was 20 years ago, except not as many people are learning or playing with biotech,” she explained. “The U.S. as a nation is going to fall behind and we aren’t tapping into this potential for new innovation and new technology that can be really transformative in our society.”
That was the spark for Seattle HiveBio Community Lab. Guthire-Honea, along with her co-founder Bergen McMurray, just launched a project on Microryza, a crowdfunding site for geeky science projects, to help fund the creation of the lab.
The non-profit, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) lab space is meant to allow both adults and children a chance to carry out research and experiments they might have not been able to elsewhere. It also provides a co-working space for people to share ideas and learn from one another. There are similar operations in almost every major city — except Seattle.
The founding partners have already locked down a warehouse in South Seattle and need funds to help pay for the first six months of rent, the necessary chemicals, as well as marketing materials.
They’re also planning to conduct biology classes so people can learn simple procedures to test our their ideas, as well as mentorship opportunities to allow those who want a chance to share their knowledge.
“We want education to be a huge part of this,” Guthrie-Honea said.
The lab will charge either a membership fee or drop-in fee to cover rent. Guthrie-Honea said they’re trying to keep those prices as low as possible to allow access to most people in the science community.
The minimum age will to be around 16 years old because of regulations, but the founders want to find ways to get younger people involved.
“All people are welcome,” Guthrie-Honea said. “Even people that used to work in biology that miss it and want to learn more about it, or people that know nothing about it and have a cool idea and want to test it out.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Microryza project needs $2,668 to reach its goal of $5,100. There are 15 days left to donate. You can learn more about the space here.
Previously on GeekWire: Geek Paradise: A video tour of the MakerHaus workshop
Reach staff reporter Taylor Soper at email@example.com or on Twitter @Taylor_Soper