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Microbial Design Studio – Machine to design, culture, and test genetically modified organisms

Created by Biorealize (Mike Hogan, Karen Hogan and Orkan Telhan), Microbial Design Studio is a countertop biofabrication machine that brings together the capabilities of a biology wetlab into a single inexpensive piece of hardware to design, culture, and test genetically modified organisms. The project seeks to introduce a wider audience to the debates surrounding biological design and genetically redesigned products.

The team behind the project see this technology both as enabler and also a critique of existing practices of transgenic design. The platform intends to engage more people with genetic manipulation safely while giving them a chance to develop an informed position about the ethics of manipulating living organisms. The technology not only lowers the barriers of entry for learning about genetic manipulation, but also allows users to create culturally meaningful designs that extend beyond making glowing bacteria. They believe that the ability to engage directly with the design of transgenic products – in domains of food, medicine, or new materials – brings more awareness and responsibility to the users as they can relate to their potential implications in their daily lives.

While Microbial Design Studio is designed as a multi-purpose platform, its design and capabilities are influenced by the artworks that are created with it. In this regard, it is not always clear for us where the design of the tool ends and where an artwork and the cultural critique begin. While the simit diet can be designed using traditional lab methods, the Microbial Design Studio allowed us to approach microbiome research from a new perspective and help us algorithmically generate new variants for a 30-day diet.

For the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial, the team used the platform to design a special diet using traditional Turkish simits. They mixed different strains of wild yeast sourced from different people and places in Istanbul with standardized lab cultures capable of producing vitamins, flavors, and smells. The ‘microbial simit diet’ had a unique and novel simit for every day, and suggested a different perception of the microbial gut flora not only for traditional weight control but also to diversify the culture inside us.

For more information on the project, follow the links below. If you would like to sign up for beta program, you can do that here.

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