This week’s startup feature is on Amino Labs – a startup with big dreams, that makes a relatively small, countertop-sized bioreactor! I got talking to Julie Legault, the founder of Amino, about her vision for the company.
When was Amino founded and who comprises the founding team?
Amino Labs was founded just recently – this past summer. But the Amino platform was created while I was at the MIT Media Lab last year. I started working on the idea, the Amino, after becoming both frustrated with the textbook way to learn synbio and the exciting, fascinating way we can understand it when experiencing it firsthand, hands on.
I’m the sole founder of Amino Labs, but Amino is a made up of a talented anti-discplinary team of people with expertise transcending design, manufacturing, electrical/mechanical engineering, product development and synthetic biology. We are also fortunate to have the support of amazing mentors.
As a designer, Julie works to make scientific and technological innovation approachable to the public, crafting experiences and objects that invite culture shifts.
She holds a masters of Science from the MIT Media Lab (Boston,USA), a masters of Art from the Royal College of Art (London, UK) and degrees in both design and technology from Concordia University (Montreal Canada). She has taught at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design in the UK and worked with multiple companies, museums and pop stars to develop smart materials, wearable technologies and interactive art.
What does Amino do; what is the product?
Amino is a small and simple to use bioengineering hardware kit that enables anyone to learn about how DNA can be used to program living systems in order to create things. It can help you create and problem solve with biology, giving you a chance to experience this impactful topic, hands on.
Everyone should have the opportunity to learn and experience impactful topics. Learning synthetic biology is important because it has the potential to become the most powerful tool to answer our problems in the real world and currently allows big corporations to solve problems in food, health, fuel, and energy. One of the best way to learn complicated topics is through doing — think of the Arduino and how that’s help so many understand hacking and coding in a fun way.
Similarly, Amino is for scientist and non-scientist alike — that means that the user interaction and the reliability of the platform is crucial. We’ve made sure to keep our Aminos friendly, intuitive and powerful, focussing on a human centered design approach.
I also think of Amino like Tamagotchi pets, except rather than taking care of a digital dog or cat, here you’re taking care of bacteria or yeast, and in that process you, your family, and your friends will learn about how your microbes works – you might even love them!
Amino is a countertop-sized bioreactor, that helps you, in a simple 1-2-3 step process, put your DNA program into bacteria and then grow and take care of those bacteria. It brings together traditional, bulky lab equipment in a self-contained intuitive system with circulation and temperature controls, as well as sensors that help you keep tabs on how fast your microbes are growing, how much food they’re eating. It has modular chambers, that allows you to swap in new microbe food and nutrients, pH balancing solutions, and even other chemicals that help control your DNA program in your microbe. And, as a kit-based system, Amino allows for self-contained micro-organism bioreacting and cleaning, making it suitable and safe for home, DIY, Labs and School use. The DNA & cells kit are based on real research thanks to a partnership with Synbiota. The first kit actually enables you to build your own living nightlight!
What is special about the technology behind Amino is that it actually reduces to costs from tens of thousands to a few hundreds.
How much are the Aminos priced at? How has the response been so far?
Amino is currently priced around 1000$ ! Check out our recently launched kickstarter campaign here! 🙂
The response has been great, from individuals to schools to museums and we feel really fortunate to be getting such a warm response. We hope Aminos make it all over the world – our intention with Amino is really to educate and change the way people see synthetic biology, help everyone understand this impactful science that is affecting and will continue to affect the way we live, and solve problems.
Is Amino in Batch 1 or 2 of IndieBioSF? How has the experience been so far at IndieBioSF?
Amino just started with IndieBio last month in the second Batch of IndieBioSF. We are very excited for the opportunity.
So the business/revenue model of Amino is selling the product. What other streams of revenue do you foresee? What are the future plans for Amino?
We are excited to see where the emerging biotech industry goes as it extends outside of the traditional market towards distributed and accessible consumer biotechnology.
Any advice or suggestions for biotech/healthcare startups?
Move fast, keep your cost low and work on getting your product functional before anything else. I would also advise to really only follow the startup route if you truly believe in the work, if you are really passionate about the idea, the vision, the team; its a lot of hard work with long hours, and having that convictions helps you get through the tough time. Its an incredibly fulfilling and educational experience, totally worthwhile.