DIYbio in Seattle might just be back from the dead.
Two years ago, a group of science enthusiasts tried to open up a do-it-yourself biotech laboratory in the Emerald City. But unfortunately for them, good ideas did not lead to execution as Dr. Michal Galdzicki wrote that “DIYbio-Seattle is dead.”
Fast forward two years and it’s looking quite a bit better. Thanks to the efforts of a 17-year-old whizkid and a Zulily photo editor, Seattle now has its first-ever DIY biology lab.
HiveBio opens its doors Friday after six months of raising money, finding the right space and everything else that goes into opening a full-scale hub for high school students and PhDs alike to perform research and conduct experiments.
A lot has happened since we first wrote about Ingraham High junior Katriona Guthrie-Honea’s idea for HiveBio back in April. Guthrie-Honea, along with co-founder and CEO Bergen McMurray, will be setting up shop at the Talaris Conference Center, just east of the University of Washington campus.
The co-founders originally picked a location in South Seattle, but a growing demand in online membership forced them to look for a larger space. At about 800 square feet, the Talaris spot is much bigger and has science roots, actually.
“According to the realtor, the building housed the Battelle Memorial Institute, a non-profit applied-science and technology development company,” McMurray told GeekWire. “The building has non-profit science in it’s blood.”
HiveBio, a non-profit organization that raised $6,420 on Microryza, will host open lab hours and educational classes to anyone interested in science. Members pay a monthly fee ranging from $54-to-$108 per month, depending on how often they want to use HiveBio. Keyed memberships, which allow 24/7 access, go for $175-to-$240 per month. Others can also use the lab or attend classes and events for a one-time drop-in fee of $15. All the fees will support Hive Bio’s operations.
Events are a big part of HiveBio. There are classes scheduled out for six months and include topics like the “Basics of Biology,” “Intellectual Property 101,” “Brain Dissection,” and “Discussion of the Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. Decision.” There will also be recurring events like a science-focused reading group, and an edX Science and Cooking group, where biosciences are explained through cooking by a Harvard professor.
Those interesting in working on bigger projects can do so by submitting proposals through the HiveBio website. Projects are reviewed by HiveBio’s Safety, Science, Ethics, and Education (SSEE) Committee, which is actually co-chaired by Galdzicki.
McMurray, who once worked at the Allen Institute for Brain Science as a graphic designer and research associate, said she’s seeing interest from all types of people, including those simply that want to be part of a community where they can work together and learn from their peers.
“Our online membership ranges from interested teenagers who want more science education than public schooling can offer, to working PhDs who are interested in having a space to work wherein they don’t have to worry about IP issues,” the CEO said. “Software people in particular are attracted to the synthetic biology aspects as many of the same ideas — and even practices —can apply.”
There are similar DIYbio operations in almost every major city. HiveBio will share many common traits with these organizations that are dedicated to the “demystification of science,” as McMurray puts it.
“We’re building a community of people with a passion for science who want to learn from and teach others around them, who have a vested interest in the innovation that comes from cross-field collaboration,” said McMurray, who also founded the Seattle-based design firm DeviantDesign nine years ago.
Funding for HiveBio has come exclusively from the Microryza campaign. The lab has also received equipment and materials donations from some of the members and the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association (WBBA). In addition, HiveBio’s executive team and Board of Directors are all volunteers.
The hope for HiveBio is to expand its space throughout the Talaris building and establishing a working relationship with Seattle Public Schools.
“We hope to be a strong pillar in the Seattle Life Sciences community,” McMurray said.
Meanwhile, the 17-year-old Guthrie-Honea is balancing this new endeavor with her normal workload at school.
“It’s a common theme as everyone in the group has to balance HiveBio with their day job,” she said. “This past month has been especially hard as we’ve all pushed to get the doors open. But seeing the final product is worth all our missing hours of sleep. It’s been especially wonderful to talk to some high school students about their project ideas.”
HiveBio is holding a grand opening event this Friday at 7 p.m. The lab is located at 4000 NE 41st St, Building G, Seattle, WA 98105.
Editor’s note: Reference to McMurray’s degree has been corrected since this post was originally published.