Katherine Aull is creating new forms of life in her closet. Armed only with jury-rigged equipment and some DNA she bought online, the 23-year-old is creating custom E. coli bacteria she thinks could help cancer research. Aull is part of a growing movement of “biohackers,” amateur biologists crafting organisms from synthetic DNA available online—and, the Wall Street Journal reports, raising eyebrows in the process.
Many scientists are nervous about the unregulated synthetic DNA trade, and one official from the FBI’s weapons of mass destruction directorate says the government is concerned, too. But Aull says biohackers aren’t a threat. We’re trying to “build a slingshot,” she says. “And there are people out there talking about, oh, no, what happens if they move on to nuclear weapons?”