8 Zero to Genetic Engineering Hero - Preface
Preface
The world of biology is on the cusp of a tectonic shift.
At present, biology is widely thought of as a topic
of discovery, of something that needs to be further
understood. Biology is also often thought of as an
immovable force that marches forth supreme. But
over the last two decades, a new mindset has emerged
where biology is instead seen as a powerful platform
technology for “making”. Biology-as-a-Technology
(BAAT) mindset, is an engineering mindset where
biology is seen as a problem-solving tool that will
enable us to solve big problems such as health, age-
ing, hunger, energy, and even communications.
The change toward the BAAT mindset is profound.
However, the tectonic shift is beginning because of
the introduction of technologies such as Minilabs,
which enable non-experts to start learning and inno-
vating within the BAAT mindset.
Learning and doing genetic engineering has tradi-
tionally been exclusive to experts in universities,
colleges, technical institutes, corporations, or gov-
ernment. However, a new age has begun where this
exciting BAAT mindset, which can result in break-
throughs that save millions of lives every year, is now
within the grasp of a much wider audience. Enthu-
siasts, students, and non-experts can now learn and
practise genetic engineering in their home, school, or
after-school club and begin their journey to impact
the world ten years earlier - this has profound impli-
cations on the health of the planet and our civiliza-
tion.
This book explores the world of biology through the
BAAT mindset. Reading this book not only results
in learning how biology functions but also how the
functions of a cell can be harnessed to make fun or
important things. Throughout this book, you’ll learn
the ins and outs of growing and genetically engineer-
ing bacteria, the foundational skills that professional
genetic engineers use daily. Upon mastering the con-
tent and exercises in this book, you will be a genetic
engineer. You will have the rst principles, skills, and
condence to explore genetic engineering further
into more sophisticated realms.
The learning approach in this book begins with sim-
ple exercises. Through the many chapters and many
more hands-on activities, you will start to see genetic
engineering as trivial. This is when you know you’re
becoming a Genetic Engineering Hero
The genetic engineering exercises in this book are
fantastic tools to learn principles and demonstrate
your capabilities. The Nobel Laureate Richard Feyn-
man stated this wonderfully when he said - “What I
cannot create, I do not understand.
In the world of genetic engineering, the synthetic
biology pioneer and Stanford University Professor
Drew Endy once said: “Creating something is the
shortest path to demonstrating what you know
and what you don’t. You will be engineering cells
to make many things, and we are condent that this
will help demonstrate your new-found knowledge of
genetic engineering.
We thank you for embarking on this journey to
understand engineering biology more deeply. We
hope that wherever this learning takes you - pio-
neering new life-saving therapies, making more eco-
logically-friendly manufacturing processes, making
sound investments, developing a new kind of art, or
merely helping society to better understand genet-
ic engineering, GMOs and becoming “bio-literate” -
that it broadens your horizons and is a tool in your
life’s toolbox that drives success.
If there is any doubt that engineering biology has
not altered the course of humanity for the better, we
need to look no further than to XKCD:
© XKCD. Permanent link to this comic: https://xkcd.com/1520/
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9Zero to Genetic Engineering Hero - Preface
Who this book is for:
This book is designed and written for hands-on
learners who have little knowledge of biology or
genetic engineering. This book focuses on the
reader mastering the necessary skills of genetic
engineering while learning about cells and how they
function. The goal of this book is to take you from no
prior biology and genetic engineering knowledge
toward a basic understanding of how a cell functions,
and how they are engineered, all while building the
skills needed to do so.
By the end of this book, if you have completed and
practiced all the exercises, you will have university-
level lab skills in the area of genetic engineering.
This book is not a typical textbook!
While you will nd depth to the content in this book
like you would in an average textbook, Zero to Genetic
Engineering Hero is made to provide you with a rst
glimpse of the inner-workings of a cell. It further
focuses on skill-building for genetic engineering and
the Biology-as-a-Technology mindset (BAAT).
Acknowledgements
This book has been in the works for several years.
It is the result of a signicant change in the way we
think about biology, the fundamental tools that are
needed, and how to offer a much improved and more
engaging method to teach and learn about biology.
To make the Zero to Genetic Engineering Hero
book possible, a new technology ecosystem needed
to be invented, rened, and deployed. Novel user
experience methodology needed to be developed -
for this, we thank the Amino Labs team and advisers.
A special thank you to Trinity Deak, Josh Friesen,
Grace Young Kwon, and Safwan Akram for their help
in nalizing this edition of the book.
While this book is a departure from what it was
initially thought to become, we want to thank Connor
Dickie and Dr. Ellen Jorgensen for contributions in
an early project with O’Reilly Publishing that did
not come to fruition. This was none-the-less an
important part of the journey.
We would like to thank and acknowledge many who
have helped change the mindset of what genetic
engineering and synthetic biology are. In particular,
members of the Synbiota Inc. team, including Connor
Dickie, Mason Edwards, Pantea Razzaghi, Alex
Meunier, Cliff Lau, Heather McGaw, Vipal Jain, James
Phillips, Britt Wray, and Dave Russell who worked
feverishly in the pursuit of understanding scientic
accessibility to close the gap between scientists
and the general population. In the same vein,
several institutions can be considered pioneering
supporters of the biorevolution - Real Ventures, Joi
Ito, Exponential Biotechnology LLC, Haliburton
County Development Corporation, E14 Fund, the
Shuttleworth Foundation, GrowthX, Pinetree Capital,
Sheldon Inwentash, and SOSV.
Early support for the development of the Amino Labs
technology ecosystem was invaluable. Thank you to
Dr. Natalie Kuldell, Dr. David S. Kong, Alexis Hope,
Dr. Raymond McCauley, Will Bunker, Jorge Conde,
David Strand, Habib Haddad, Calvin Chin, Brett
Proud, Stacie Slotnick, Janine Liberty, J. Philipp
Schmidt, Kevin Slavin and the Playful Systems
group, Andrew Lippman, Lorena Altamirano, Ryan
Bethencourt, Arvind Gupta, Michael Hirsch, Stefanie
Friedhoff, Jamie McIntyre, David Hu, Kamal Farah,
Felix Heilbeck, Basheer Tome, Cory Schmitz, Deepak
Jagdish, Chris Peterson, Bianca Datta, Savannah
Niles, Sands Fish, and Robocut Studio.
We thank Rafael Anta and Jim Rea for being both
fantastic parents in supporting their children’s
education, as well as for all the feedback and help
with rening content in this book.
We are very thankful to our families, friends, and
colleagues for their endless support.
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10 Zero to Genetic Engineering Hero - Forum
Genetic Engineering Hero Community
Visit www.amino.bio/community
to ask questions, share your work and experiment results,
see breakout exercise, review question answers
and meet other Genetic Engineering Heroes!
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