3D Printing

Hacking Life's Code and Creating New Organisms with 3-D Printed DNA

Q&A With Cambrian Genomics' Austen Heinz

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"To think that we can't make organisms that aren't more efficient than existing, I don't think is correct," says Austen Heinz, founder of the biotech startup Cambrian Genomics. "Because nature doesn't have DNA laser printers, and we do."

Reason TV's Zach Weissmueller sat down with Heinz to discuss the ramifications of a technology that dramatically brings down the cost of sequencing and assembling DNA, suddenly making the ability for consumers to create their own organisms an economic reality. Heinz partnered with a company to crowdfund a "glowing plant," which led to a subsequent ban on GMO-related projects on Kickstarter, and he expresses concern with the lagging regulatory structure governing biotech development. But Heinz is undeterred by regulatory and cultural obstacles and foresees a future where consumers can affordably leverage his technology to fix errors in their own DNA or even design their own creatures in the same way that 3-D printing companies like MakerBot allow for custom models.

"[With] MakerBot, you would print out, say, a plastic dinosaur. With Cambrian, the idea is that eventually you'll be able to print out your own little dinosaur that actually walks across the table," says Heinz. "Everything around us is just code. Wouldn't it be great if we could just snap our fingers and just re-imagine the world around us, where everything is programmable, everthing is re-writeable?"

Approximately 10 minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Justin Monticello. Music by Chris Zabriskie.

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