Biotech: Tools of the trade

So, you’ve got yourself a team of dedicated Biology grads, or you’ve taught yourself all the basics of Molecular/Synthetic Biology. It’s time to make a start-up  !

But wait, aren’t you forgetting something?

  • Knowledge workers Check.
  • Tons and tons of ideas Check.
  • a workspace/large-sized dorm room Check.
  • equipment che…wait, what ?

Yes, there’s a large difference between a Software startup and a Biotech startup… the equipment needed to test your humongous collection of semi-viable ideas !

For a software startup, the equipment needed are easy :

  1. Code monkey(s).
  2. Computer(s).

While a Biotech company, on the cheap, will at least need the following to test their ideas:

  1. PCR equipment 
    Many Biotech projects will be manipulating DNA — operons for metabolic pathways, genes for specific molecules… — and to do that you need to be able to manipulate the specific piece of Genome you’ve decided to test, modify, or study. To do that, a PCR is essential, and there are several to choose from. Going from “industrial/lab” strength to DIY/biohacker grade.
  2. Reagents, Culture media, etc…
    (this is highly dependable upon the idea/project, but since you’re doing Biotech, it’s very probable you at least have a few cell cultures to take care of).
  3. Basic Lab Equipment (test tubes, Erlenmeyers, etc…).
  4. Microscope(s).
    (This depends on whether you need to observe something in-vivo or not, or if your project requires it).

There are many probably other basics I’m missing, like safety & health equipment, etc…

So, how would a wannabe-bioentrepreneur get started ? How can you validate the ideas if you’re low on funds ?

There are several options, depending on how much you/your team can muster together, if you have jobs on the side, etc… :

  1. “Collaborate” with a local university.
    This works particularly well if you can get your hands on an interested professor or researcher, who might plea with the administration on your behalf to grant you access to their equipment.
  2. Work in a hackerspace.
    Hackerspaces adapted to this kind of work are slowly creeping up all around the world, they tend to be very well versed in open source and open hardware (OpenPCR, etc…) and can be a good place to validate the ideas in themselves (when validated, you’ll still need market research and probably funding at some point, if you plan on launching a product).
  3. Buy time for specific parts of your experiment on University or industrial equipment, using ScienceExchange, a marketplace for experiments !

So, that will be all for today,

Have fun !

I’m currently going through the Fizzle introduction courses, and the one I’m in — Finding your Subject — has led me to evaluate a dozen or so possible subjects with a Weighted Decision Matrix (fun little tool, I’ll probably use that again in the future !).

I’ve narrowed it down to one of these (or a combination…):

  • Biotechnology.
  • Crowdfunding.
  • Wearable Technology (+- App Development).

The final part of the course is to write 5 blog posts ( + a hypothetical product outline) on each of the ideas.

This is number 5/5 of the Biotechnology subject.

PS: The Fizzle Show is an excellent podcast, go listen !


About novusophia

21 year old undergraduate (Year 2) Biology student in Perpignan, France. I'm obsessed with Biotech, Science in general, and Entrepreneurship, and planning on one day combining them all ! (Also, I'm going to take over the world... bow before the overlord !)
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