Building a bioeconomy require increased access to foundational and enabling technologies and this goal is increasingly achievable in low resource settings. The mission of the Open Bioeconomy Lab is to contribute to creating an open, sustainable and equitable bioeconomy through:
Why Open Bioeconomy Lab Exists
Biology as a technology is key to the sustainable future of people and planet. However, proprietary models of ownership, market consolidation and lack of access to knowledge and research tools such as equipment and reagents are just three of many factors restricting who has the ability to perform biological research and agency to shape the direction of biotechnology at a time when governments across the world are producing strategies to build knowledge-based bioeconomies.
The Open Bioeconomy Lab is a multifaceted international research group incorporating biology, intellectual property, hardware, policy, social science and economics in creating a sustainable, open and equitable bioeconomy in Africa and the global south through research and capacity building for researchers and scientists.
We focus on developing open source tools for biotechnology. The pace of openly licensed and off-patent biological reagents entering the public domain is growing rapidly. However, open licenses and contracts are insufficient when practical routes for global access to and use of materials are not in place. Currently, access to reagents is a major impediment to scientists in the Global South, Africa and in low resourced settings like DIYBio labs.
Our research demonstrates that the market structure for biological enzymes is holding back innovation and limiting who can perform biological research: in low-resourced contexts students rarely get hands on experience before postgraduate level and many researchers are restricted to using the most basic techniques even when their knowledge and training would allow them to advance.
The inequality is one of resources but also of time: where research does go ahead it can be held back by weeks if not months by procurement, delivery and importation delays adding to the challenges of collaboration and knowledge creation in the rapid-paced global scientific community.