A very good way to enrich the project through feedback is to do so by consulting experts in the field of study as has been done previously in iGEM. Their opinion is really relevant because of the reputation that precedes them, and that adds value to the product/project.
That is why we have decided to contact renowned artists and sciencists from the world of bioart and biotecnology to present them our project and seek advice. Next section describes who we have reached out and how their opinions have changed Printeria.
María Peñil & Mehmet Berkmen
Image 1. Maria Peñil and Mehmet Berkmen in Boston NEB laboratories.
María Peñil Cobo is a Spanish mixed media artist born in San Vicente de la Barquera. She studied fine arts and has a master in art education. To do her masterpieces she works with natural media like bacteria.
Dr. Mehmet Berkmen is a Turkish-born international microbiologist. Nowadays he is a Senior sciencist at NEB working on genetically engineering bacteria to produce proteins.
As you can see above María Peñil and Mehmet Berkmen are coworkers in NEB Biolabs Boston. Together, they are dedicated to making bioart with bacteria grown in agar, which fascinated us. They are what printeria represents, art and science connected, so we wanted to contact them and expose our project as well as ask for advice. The results of the interview can be seen in this document:
Interview conclusions were:
It is difficult for artists to get in touch with scientists. Maria and Memo met by coincidence.
In this aspect, Printeria could help to approach artists to scientists.
Presevation of bioart plates is one of the biggest problems. The best way to preserve them is leaving the plates in the fridge. But using epoxy or other resins can help preservation.
We leave them on the fridge and we are trying to fix them by using transparent nail polish.
Consider working by layers when working with different types of bacteria. The slow growers should go first and after growing them, fast growers should be added.
As we are only working with E. coli, we are having no problems. But this piece of advice should be taken into account if Printeria ends up using other different chassis than just E. coli strains.
They don’t create their own GM microorganisms, so they think Printeria could be a useful machine to do so. Memo encourages us to write a manuscript out of this, even if the machine does not totally work. This could make people start using it so that Printeria could evolve.
The idea of doing a manuscript caught our eyes and we are planning to do so. It also made us think about creating the ‘Printeria user manual’ as well as an activity booklet for the user to learn even more about SynBio.
Do not only focus on creating colourful bacteria but on stand-alone scent pathways.
We achieved to create mint scented E.coli but we will continue doing some research in stand-alone scent pathways.
For doing bioart, just try different techniques: using glass beads, pipetting liquid cultures, using sowing handles.
We knew nothing about bioart and, thanks to Maria and Memo, we started developing our skills to quickly learn the basics about this type of art. We used the pipetting method to create Yturralde’s living art and the sowing handles for creating Printeria’s logo and for letting students create their own masterpieces in MAG.
Memo thinks Printeria is a nice multidisciplinary project. He encourages us to show who we are, and the way we learnt to speak a common language in which biotechnologists, engineers, designers and informatics, understood each other.
It is very important for people to know that Printeria is more than just a biotechnological project. It is a machine in which lots of different disciplines worked together with a single goal. And this piece of advice really helped us while creating our poster and while planning our Giant Jamboree’s presentation.
It could be graeat for people to touch Printeria. Take it to Boston and try to do a live performance during the Jamboree. This will influence the judges a lot.
Printeria was built to be as easy as a lego toy, so that anyone can assemble it. This fact will make Printeria perfect to travel to Boston and, of course, to perform public demonstrations there.
Image 2.Francisco Mojica and Carolina in Mojica's house (Elche).
Dr. Francisco Juan Martínez Mojica is a microbiologist, researcher and professor at the University of Alicante. He is the discoverer of the CRISPR/Cas9 systems whose application would later be researched by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna among others.
In Spain, he is one of the most reputable researchers and as such, his opinion and advice are worth their price in gold. Mojica accepted our invitation for a personal interview in which we would present the project and ask him for advice. The interview was carried out by Carolina Ropero, member of the Printeria team. In the following button you will be able to read the whole interview:
Interview conclusions were:
Mojica agrees that with the automation which Printeria offers the experimental error can be reduced. However, he warned us about the importance of being aware of the decisions to make, even if a device such Printeria is able to do all the process by itself.
To avoid the user lack of awareness, we decided to develop a Simulation tool, so the user could simulate the experiments in silico. Thus, this functionality provides the user with a quantitative, mathematical description to ensure the rational decision making.
He believes that, from the education point of view, the automation is detrimental to the observation. He also pointed out the necessity of training the teaching stuff, as they are not often used to SynBio.
In order to ensure the students understanding of the biology that is behind each step, we decided to develop a Printeria basic user-guide. Moreover, we implemented recipes in our software tool. Recipes are already pre-defined experiments that include an easy ID name such as “pink colour”, so in this way the most basic user can understand what he/she is printing and so the biological reason of the final result.
Biosafety measures are completely necessary to ensure Printeria introduction in non-scientific environments.
We realized it was necessary to improve our safety measurements. Mojica advised us the use of UV light filters as bacterial-killer, which were positively integrated into Printeria final design.
He advised us to be aware about the vocabulary used to divulgue science, as it needs to be technically correct but close and safe enough for the lay public to listen to you.
This, along with the bioartist expert feedback, gave us the idea to use a non-usual approach to divulgue SynBio into the lay-public. As a consequence, Printeria promotion among society was carried out by including the BioArt as the main attraction to get to the public.
José María Yturralde
Image 3.Yturralde (center) with Priteria team.
Yturralde has a bachelor's degree and a PhD in fine arts awarded by the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV). Furthermore he has been researcher in the MIT among other great things. Between 1968 and 1973 he developed his work "Impossible figures". These figures are really interesting because they show us how our space perception works, they seem coherent at first glance but when you observe them in more detail you see there are inconsistent details.
Images 4-5. Yturraldes's masterpiece and our final Microbial Art version under UV light.
To prove Printeria's power in bioart we decided to do one of those figures which you can see above and an interview to get some expert feedback from him. Here you can see the full interview we did:
Interview conclusions were:
They way we have to bring Printeria to the market
Yturralde said that there is something really important in art and it is the creative process. He recommended us not to show the product (draws in petri plates) but show the creative process. This way we will catch the artist attention. In this line, we consider to do several promotional videos with the process to show them in future art gallery expositions like Hangar Gallery in Barcelona or E planetari de Castelló where we will go after the jamboree to present our project.
Furthermore, he told us that we had to sell the idea of an art that evolves with time because Printeria is not only makes art, it makes life, science and evolution.
Where will Printeria have a great impact?
Yturralde recommends the US to launch such innovative projects. The fact is that it is not without reason, as in Spain there have been many television media and laboratories that have ignored us. Therefore, if we continue with the project after iGEM, we will direct all our efforts abroad, it is decided!
Printeria, the near future
When we asked him about improvements of printeria, he said: " It is not what is missing is what is going to come". He encoraged us to continue with Printeria because we will be the start of a new and revolutionary way of expression.
Ryan Fobel is CEO of Sci-Bots
located in Toronto (Canada). He has a PhD in medical biophysics.
We e-mailed Ryan to get in contact with a company that actually does Digital Microfluidics. We learned a lot from the variables involved into this technology. Our final design was heavily influenced by our conversation via Skype with him. We even got the chance of using some of the Digital Microfluidics Chips that Sci-Bots uses for their machine.
Highlights of design changes:
Pad distance: It is really important that pads have the shortest distance between them as possible. On our early tests we used around 6 mils of separation between pads. He really advised us to use 4 mils pad separation, and this was implemented on the final PCB for the experimentation surface.
Surface coating: This is the hardest part to get right. We learned that currently is better to reapply the coating everytime we do a reaction on the surface. To solve this we got inspired on the design by OpenDrop of using disposable surfaces that are held on top of the PCB. We used that concept on the final design of our machine.
Ana & Miriam
Image 7. Skype with Miriam (left) and Ana (right)
Ana Pastor and Miriam are two Spanish artists from Alicante, who are really interested in combining science and art in their artwork pieces. Ana creates her pieces of art by using her own blood, either lyophilized or even painting with it, while Miriam is working with urban vegetation. So, what will they think about Printeria? Will they find Printeria useful?
Interview conclusions were:
Science and art should start walking in the same pathway. It is very important for all different disciplines to start hybridizing. Scientists should count a little bit more one creative people to give a fresh and a different point of view.
Ana is always into trying new things so she would love to use Printeria for exploring the idea of working with microorganisms.
Printeria should think about working out of the petri dish. Not just using colourful bacteria for painting but trying to mix them with different compounds. Or even, in the future, for synthesizing fibres or even textiles out of bacteria.
Printeria could be sold not as a product for our daily lives but for science schools or even to institutions that do fab lab. So, if anyone wants to use Printeria for an art project, you just go to some of these institutions, you pay a fee and you can use it for a given amount of time.