Thursday, August 20, 2015

Real Vegan Cheese : DIYbio Project 1

Vegan's cop a hard time when it comes to food. For some it's a choice, for others it's definitely not a choice, in the end vegans are normally limited in choices for food. That's not the case for cheese according to a joint project in the Bay Area.

A team of BioHackers and Scientists in San Francisco CA, from two spaces, Counter Culture Labs and BioCurious, are teaming up as well as sourcing help from volunteers (citizen scientists) to bring the world the first alternative to animal made cheese using bakers yeast. They hope to make real vegan cheese. While some think this will be a major source of income, a quick look at their project Wiki shows that they intend to keep this technology free for the public by patenting it and abandoning it.

This isn't just good news for Vegans though, it's also a huge plus for our environment and food sustainability. Farm animals contribute dozens of polluting gasses, including those that effect the climate. In addition, deforestation occurs on grand proportions to establish new grazing areas to support demand for animal based foods, many of these farm animals are exposed to various forms of animal cruelty. Alleviating the demand for these animal products isn't just in the best interests of vegans by any means.

So our friends aim to achieve the goal of vegan cheese by profiling the type of proteins found in animal based cheeses, and mimicking this in the baker's yeast. While this may sound like a simple case of copying and pasting DNA from one organism into another, there is a lot of energy that goes into the designing this project. Things such as immune reactions to milk need to be considered when selecting for the right protein variant, how fast a Ribosome can translate mRNA into protein to allow for proper folding of the protein, even the codon usage for genes needs to be considered as different species have different codon tRNA pairings. Another way to think of this is that the characters you're reading right now are being pronounced in your head in English. What if you spoke French and knew no English and tried to pronounce these words in French? There may be some similarities but in large it would sound pretty crazy. In essence, these cattle milk genes have been retrofitted to be able to be read and work inside of yeast cells to create the right kind of cheese proteins.

But wait cheese comes from milk not just cheese proteins right?
In order to keep this vegan cheese REAL vegan cheese, a milk substitute had to be created. This was created by concocting a blend of vegetable butter, vegan friendly sugar, and then finally the yeast cheese proteins and some good ol Dihydrogen Monoxide (water). Finally using the same cheese making processes for making non vegan cheese, they hope to create various types of cheeses from this finished product! Now all can enjoy cheese, and that's Gouda for everyone.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Biohacking Down Under # 1

Hi guys! I just had my first biohacking session and it was awesome!

So why Biohacking?

Well firstly, what is biohacking? There are many different types of biohacking. One form people follow is that of modifying the body. Making modifications includes inserting RFID chips in their hands to act as business cards. This is also known as transhumanism. Others try to “hack” the metabolic processes of their body by following strict diets to yield results such as more energy. All of these movements follow a DIY or “Do It Yourself” ethic.

Which movement of biohacking am I embarking following? The third one, and by large the most popular (I’m a sucker for bandwagons). Here in Melbourne Australia, the stage has been set for members of the public to follow and get involved in more non-institutional trends in science education. Such as the establishment of community ran laboratories. Why? Curiosity, Humans are curious, very curious. Curiosity combined with imagination can lead to some innovative discoveries. While curiosity leads to amazing things, it has also led to frightening things. One of the largest and most important values displayed by the biohacker community is transparency. Biohackers in the scene are working alongside industry professionals, government officials, and academia to make sure their projects are not only fun and interesting, but adhering to all safety standards as much as possible.

So what would having a local biohacker space look like? Well imagine having a membership to your local lab, and being able to make plants glow, bacteria change color when they come in contact with different chemicals, or getting involved with a project that could have a huge impact like finding a replacement to palm oil and more! 

So where are we right now? Well we have a little bit of traction (check our our vice article), we’ve had some equipment donated, the community is growing, we’ve had meetups, a workshop and finally, a space that we are going to be converting into our very own lab! With the support of friends, family, biohackers here in Melbourne, Sydney at the BioFoundry, and internationally, we hope to bring that satisfaction to your curiosity only science and your imagination can provide.

 Stay tuned and you can join me on the process of what’s been involved so far and what’s up ahead!

Watch as this space turns into Melbourne's first BioHacker space!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Journal of the Wantrapreneur : Going your own way

What do we mean when we say "manage your expectations?" It seems most of us, even when we plan for the most unlikely events, are still a little over optimistic. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can mean set ourselves up for a nervous breakdown when situations occur that were no where near what we expected. So like any new relationship, we should aim to limit our attachment to our early expectations of our projects. This doesn't mean we shouldn't have expectations, that is only natural, but it means that early on when things don't go according to plan, which will happen, we need to go easy on ourselves and those around us.
"Things take longer than you expect. Plan 2-3 times longer than your estimates," says Aaron Franklin, a co-founder of LazyMeter, and Entrepreneur John Greathouse is even more pessimistic, citing the "Rule of Four" from the MouseDriver: Everything takes four times as long as you predict; everything costs four times as much as you budget; everything yields one-fourth the results you project.
So how do we limit our expectations of ourselves and our projects? We need to essentially make an agreement that while we have goals and a destination in mind, we often can't control the journey on how we get there. So these agreements of understanding we set with ourselves and others act like boundaries. These boundaries state that while this is all new and exciting, and we want things to succeed beyond our wildest dreams, we understand that life can and will often throw a spanner in the works. So while we invest our time, energy and money into our projects, relationships and life in general, we understand that sometimes our plans will fall through. When they do though, we take heed of what we did wrong or maybe right, learn from it, accept it, go easy on ourselves, and get back on the horse with our new trajectory.  

Friday, May 29, 2015

Journal of the Wantrapreneur : Can you manifest your destiny?

I'm not one for believing in mystical powers or anything, but there seems to be a trend of good things happening to optimistic people. Going through my project, I've always held a positive attitude about what I was setting out to accomplish, and when I've sported this demeanor, things seemed to work out for me. What do I mean by "things"? I mean I was able to spot new opportunities and jumped on them, not all of them worked out in my favor, but if it didn't I would at least learn something new. Win win really.

 Now this journey hasn't been easy, there have been plenty of times where I was down in the dumps, and not entirely due to the project itself, life has a way of throwing things at you from all angles. During these times it's been hard to stay positive most of the time, if at all. I'd experience no progress at all in my projects and I was completely enclosed in my own miserable sphere of mental anguish, so much so that people around me would even shirk away. Luckily my family and close friends were there to slap me around and remind me of who I was. 

Soon enough, with my new perspective on life gained through that little thing called experience and with the help of my friends and family, I was back to smiling and being optimistic about everything. Sure enough, I started to make new connections, following up leads and getting equipment donated to my cause. How is this possible? Its not that I wasn't working on my project when I was going through the rough patch, because I was. It was more so that mentally I was closed off to the opportunities that presented itself to me. 

When we are positive about the future we see everything without the "risk goggles" on. When we are pessimistic, we are looking to protect ourselves from more damage so naturally, that means to close off from whatever we are unsure about, even if it may be an opportunity. So when we are positive we have a higher chance to see the good things can do versus the pain it could cause. Change your mind, change your world!

So the real question is, how do we get out of the habit of looking at the world around us through our risk goggles? That will be another post.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Journal of the Wantrapreneur : Ask and be told

Just ask. Seems like a simple suggestion, but going back a few months, I'd have no clue just how much power there was in asking. Early January i set out on a quest to open up a BioHacker space in Melbourne, now in May, 4 months later, I am President of an organization, I have $30,000 worth of equipment from a University I still owe $10,000 to for a partial education, and am about to open the lab up in my garage. All of this was obtained for under $50, the rest was given to me because I asked. It's amazing the stories we spin ourselves to justify us not doing something we're not comfortable with doing. We could spend countless hours holding off on doing something that may in itself take only a minute.

Step 1
I asked the Internet, who around Melbourne would be interested in starting up a BioHack space. The response was pretty good, and so we created a Facebook page to keep everyone up to date and act as a medium for communications during this project. Soon after this the task at hand of what needed to get done was beyond me so I decided to look for help. I asked who wanted to form an organization, next thing we knew, we had an organization.

Step 2
I asked existing contacts in my science network as well as seeking out other new contacts for old lab equipment. Sure enough, labs in Australia are constantly upgrading, resulting in many thousands of dollars worth of unused equipment just sitting around. Much of this goes straight in the bin! So when these laboratories heard there was a worthwhile cause they could off load this gear to, they were happy to help. The acquisition of this gear was a huge milestone and, a big shout out to Deakin University and my old Demonstrator/friend Wesy for helping out.

Step 3
As things were progressing, we needed to start focusing the power of our board towards the tasks that would allow for progress. What we found out was that in order for us to go to the next level we would need to change from an incorporated association to a company limited by guarantee. Not knowing how to go forward we decided to ask for some legal advice. What we got was free pro-bono help. Some people really identified with the idea, so much they were willing to wave their normal fees until we could pay. When it comes to the legal side of things, it's very important to get everything down pat to reduce liability and risk to the members. Unfortunately the fees for going from an incorporated association to a company limited by guarantee are quite expensive. It would have cost me $2,000 roughly to pay for an accountant to find a lawyer to have this done. Then I asked if anyone would be willing to do it pro-bono and the answer was yes, this halved the cost to $1,000! 

The point I'm trying to make is just ask! you never know what you're going to get until you ask, and until then you can only speculate! Ask everyone, tell everyone, speak to everyone! If you come across a stone, turn it over and see whats underneath, you'll never guess, so don't.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Journal of the Wantrapreneur : the pain compass

Going through life, each of us forms our own unique relationship with pain. Whether it is physical, emotional or mental pain, it is rare to hear of someone who has never been hurt. Nor would I trust such a person. Pain tells us we are out of our comfort zone, it signals that something is happening beyond our expected norm. When considering our day to day lives, we often feel discomfort when our expectations aren’t met. These expectations could be long standing paradigms that we believe in and have had challenged, or they could be expectations made from recently acquired information. Generally, when things don’t go according to plan, we feel a little tightness in our chest, some discomfort, some pain. This may vary greatly from person to person. Some people don’t deal with pain very well, others were born from it.

While pain is a very unique feeling, however, societies tend to under harness the potential power of this feeling and instead teach that pain is something to be avoided. I would argue the contrary. Pain is unique and powerful emotion to an individual in the context of his or her life, which instead of being completely steered away from, should be recognize and accepted for what it is. Pain is our emotional response to a stimulus. When thinking about pain or discomfort in this manner, it can actually be used as our own compass to explore our boundaries. Where do our limits lie?

It can be used as a diagnostic tool for not only ourselves but the journeys and projects we embark on throughout life. Okay so this company project doesn’t seem to be doing well, why is that? Why am I suddenly feeling this way when this person brings up ”blank”? Something is happening, it’s not going as I expected and I’m having an emotional reaction. Now that I am aware of my actual boundaries, and where my limits are, where do I go from here? What changes do I need to make to better handle this situation in the future?

Of course actually deploying this style of self-awareness during the live feeling of pain is no simple task, it takes a conscious degree of mindfulness. So practice is key, as practice makes perfect. Actually practice doesn't make perfect, it makes it habits, and habits take very little energy to do. So the more we practice being mindful in life, the sooner we can discover our own limitations, where they come from, if they can be pushed, without even thinking about it.

 As an entrepreneur, it is imperative that we realise when we are out of our depth, and that when we are, we decide that staying the course is what we need to do or to alter it. It’s when we ignore what our bodies are telling us that we begin to suffer. It’s when we continue to act incongruently to who we actually are, that we continue to suffer. So don’t ignore the pain, embrace it, listen to it, accept it, and make the needed changes for you to grown in all areas of your life.

There is a very important lesson that I must follow up with and that is,

We are not our thoughts or our feelings. 

When we identify with a thought or an emotion, especially a negative one, we run the risk of becoming consumed in a world of hurt. In addition, all emotions stem from thoughts. Every feeling you've felt, was sourced from a thought. By policing our thoughts we can become better masters of our house. Awareness is the answer, by observing your thoughts and feelings instead of letting them run your life, we begin to separate the feelings and thoughts based on assumptions from our true selves. Most of our negative thoughts and emotions stem from not knowing. If you don't know, ask, do not base your actions, risk your mental health, or happiness on uninformed assumptions. If you're afraid to ask, maybe that is your pain compass signalling you have some work to do.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Journal of the Wantrepreneur : Just do it

Yes it's an overused brand slogan and a little Cliché, but the value in these words seems to go unheeded most of the time. We are our own biggest obstacles in everything we do.

Every task we want to accomplish is our task, not someone else's. We put in the effort, we decide where to put our foot down. We choose to begin, we choose to walk away. We create the dysfunctional fantasies that tell us we are not experienced enough or lack the technical knowhow to move forward. It's our passion and drive that moves beyond this level of thinking to take us  to the promise land. Even recruiting or collaborating with others involves us. We choose who to work with or who to delegate our tasks to and the manner in which we operate within each of these relationships.

So why do we stop ourselves from even starting and denying ourselves invaluable real world experience?

We tell ourselves we need more knowledge we need more answers so I won't fail. Again, we see failure to accomplish a task as a bad thing. No book can transmit the same quality or quantity of information as the real world can. Still, many spend countless hours reading guides as if they were their own instruction manuals that were written specifically for them. Books offer great tips on how to approach new situations. However books won't reduce the hard work you have before you. Nor should you want them to, there is no substitute for hard work and experience that you get from the world.

Books definitely have a place in any journey, but ultimately we will have to choose how to implement and use this knowledge. Book aren't going to do the work for us. What's more is that no one book can ever fully prepare you for your unique individual experience. Obtaining the answers for our unique path requires you to have gone out and find the right questions to ask.

"An approximate answer to the right question is worth far more than a precise answer to the wrong one."
-John Tuley

Don't stop asking questions, instead go out there, experience, and form questions based on the real world. As soon as you do so, your questions will be based off of more than just a few lines of text but instead, from the vast data of your mind a super computer. Your senses, you intuitions, your past experiences will offer a much greater platform to ask questions from than a chair with a book in your hand.

Now if you have no clue what you're doing, great, read a book or two, but don't expect to achieve your goals from your reading chair. The sooner you start, the sooner you get to find the right questions to ask, and the sooner you can seek a relevant answer from a book, someone with more experience or even yourself. It all begins with you though. So move beyond the self-imposed limitations, and toward a better education in you.

Practice self-reflection every step of the way. What did you do and what would you have done differently? Especially when it comes to the decisions you were most unsure of. If you keep telling yourself the future is where you need to get to in order to make the right decision, you'll never take action because an action occurs in the present, in the now. So too lies the right question, and your answer. So just do it already.