Now, let’s have a break in the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Michael Yamashita, builder of the local DIYBio community, answered a few questions for us, revealing his profound belief in a healthier life thanks to biohacking.
Could you introduce yourself?
Some people would describe me as a provocative gadfly and a witty raconteur. I could say that I live on the edge of existence and innovation. I maintain a wide variety of entrepreneurial experience, from biotech hackspaces to innovation prizes to catalyze advances in technology. As an avid learner of history and human nature, I wish to offer deep insight into business and life.
Actually, I studied physics previously after high school but dropped out because I found academic life uninspiring and my grades were lousy – at best I could hope for a unworthy life trapped in academia. I volunteered for the Methuselah Foundation, they developed the M-Prize, catalyzing age-reversal technology though incentive prizes. As well, I took an interest in Open Source approaches to biotechnology, and worked at CAMBIA (Centre For the Application of Molecular Biology to International Agriculture) in Australia, where they develop practical, low-cost plant transformation technologies for the Developing World. It was at CAMBIA I met people who were interested in biohacking – they saw that the Big model for life sciences innovation – Big Universities, Big Industry, Big Government, was one that is inefficient and could be improved. Much like computers in the 1970s, now we are seeing the enabling tools come down in price. Later, I went down to California and hung out with a group that were working on innovative cancer therapeutics in their garage. They developed into what is today Biocurious. I’m hoping to bring this into Vancouver, and so developed the DIYBio-Vancouver group on meetup. Our group is expanding, and we have received a good amount of equipment donations – now we must find a lab space to operate in.
What does biohacking represent for you?
For me, I believe that biohacking is vital for the survival of the human species and civilization. So many feared diseases today will become trivial and inexpensive nuisances only if the pace of innovation is sped up. Enhancing ourselves to be more intelligent and healthy is also a good thing! Biohacking represents really the key to the future.
What do you expect from a biohackerspace?
A biohackspace should provide a fun and inviting environment so that innovation can be accessible to people with a wide variety of interests and skills. The top-down approach today makes it very difficult for people outside of academia/industry/government from participating, and this is ultimately what is truly tragic, as it denies everyone better chances to ending diseases and making life better. Not just for myself, but more importantly, for everyone else, they deserve more.
>> Picture: Dailylaurel (CC)