Activity Report 2021

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Activity Report 2021

(to the French version)

The community laboratory association, Hackuarium, offers anyone the possibility to discover, experiment, and use their skills to contribute to a wide variety of projects. The association was officially founded on the 13th of August in 2014, with a principal goal of democratising research. To us, biohacking is an unusual mix of biology and technology. Our members conduct open and participatory research, outside traditional institutions, and respect the ethical charter of the DIYbio or ‘Do-It-Yourself biology.’ We promote interdisciplinarity by all means, and our projects are carried out as well by scientists as by citizens, architects, designers, computer experts, engineers, students, housewives, welfare recipients or the retired. We have even started a kids’ club, with the first session focused on DIY microscopy. (Sadly, our second session was prevented by the Covid-19 pandemic. See also below, in the section on Education.) In recent years, a much greater focus has been put upon Do-It-Together research (DIT), because it can lead to unexpected synergies; and it’s just more fun.

Most of the time, our projects aim to be inexpensive (“low-cost”) and use the simplest possible technology (“low-tech”). We are also like recycling (or "upcycling") material discarded by laboratories in the region, a method that we always recommend to others who also want to start a community laboratory, something in our opinion that should be part of every community. The biohacking philosophy helps development of critical thinking needed to advance well. The most important aspect to open science is detailed documentation of work in progress. This can be achieved particularly well using tools from the web, like Slack, for live discussions between working groups, and our wiki, to set up project pages and share details of experiments and even agendas for our committee meetings online. In general, in order to make these communications as accessible as possible, reports and other information in the wiki are written in both French and English. *

Our laboratory is open to everyone, and our members don’t only work on projects, but also share their knowledge and know-how to contribute to the community and promote science. Our members confirm that they share our values and pay 20 chf / month for 24/7 access to laboratories, which have been located in an old one-story building in Ecublens, Route de Crochy 20, since February 2019. Previously, we were hosted at UniverCité, in Renens, where we influenced many decision-makers, “makers,” professionals and innovators.

Our biology laboratory, certified at biosafety level 1 (BSL1 or P1), gives us the right to perform DNA cloning experiments and use antibiotics. With three windows facing south, this laboratory is available to trained users, who have participated in at least one course (introduction to biosafety and risk analysis). An indoor laboratory allows fluorescence, bioluminescence and a little chemistry. With a few other spaces available in the building (especially for the ultracentrifuge and for storage, see this map), Hackuarium can consider itself well setup. In addition, by collaborating with neighboring associations, Octanis (‘born’ as a Hackuarium project), Polymeka, and other “startups”, hosted together in this cooperative, the possibilities of exploration and creation in this peaceful corner of 'Ecublens are practically endless. Everyone is welcome to our weekly meetings (#OpenHackuarium), which are held every Wednesday evening (virtually more often than before, in these days, because of the health crisis), but the activities (and subscriptions) of our members make us live.

This report summarizes some of the highlights of our six years of activity, and aims to give an idea of what is planned for the years to come.

Our greatest hope for the future is to become sustainable, with a safer space, as our current building is slated for demolition. We are looking for a way to secure our future, should the building be destroyed. (When the lease was signed two years ago, we were told this could happen in 3-5 years.)

  • Note: the French / English parts of the wiki have not (yet) been fully translated, for the most part, as our association does not employ any administrative staff. Our progress and the maintenance of the association are possible thanks to volunteer members, whose passion leads them to make time to contribute to this great open science project ...

(merci! thanks!!)

Current Projects
Hackuarium is essentially a community based around different biohacking projects.
Here is a list of our current projects, with some of them cited next:

  • AGiR! Projects at Hackuarium
  • BeeMoS
  • CoronaDetective
  • Hybridoa
  • Jardinage Urbain
  • Living Instruments
  • Open Source Bioreactor
  • Open Source Spectrophotometer

Following the second wave of Covid-19, we believe that the Corona Detective project will help end this pandemic even if the vaccinations have already started, thanks to its potential surveillance tests. At the moment, it is this project that gives us the most hope.
The other projects on this list are based on environment, sustainability and public health (BeeMoS, Urban Gardening, and AGiR! Projects), open and affordable laboratory instruments (Open Source Bioreactor and Spectrophotometer), and finally the integrations and fusions of art and music with biotechnology (Hybridoa, Living Instruments).
Among the older projects, we could point to, for instance, the one aimed at cleaning up shooting ranges in Switzerland, Bience (Beer and Science!), BeerDeCoded, or BIO-DESIGN for the REAL WORLD. These projects and many more are archived in our wiki. Our project on water quality in Montreux Bay, the Montreux Clean Beach Project, was resuscitated last summer thanks to the pandemic, allowing the lake water to be sampled without occurrence of the Montreux Jazz (and this summer ‘NoJazz’ control gave different results other summers, clearly). Other old projects are still promising, such as the one on the use of biomaterials (Mycelium Structures). At least, that's what some recent events and new member registrations portend.
All of our projects were made for open science, remember. so are open to anyone, and can be relaunched, cloned, modified, and shared!

We are also actively involved in international and national collaborations and networks, such as OpenInsulin, JOGL, Biosummit, SWILABS (3rd MEETING in Lugano) and Hackteria.

Defining Activities (2014 to present):
Here is a list of Hackuarium activities by date, several of which are listed below:

• 2014.06.06-07 Water Hackathon organisé par Hackteria. • 2014.09.25 - 2015.02.22 LAB/LIFE Exhibition, Musée de la Main, Lausanne, Switzerland • 2015.07.18 samedi 9:30-15:30: le premier atelier / workshopchoppe. • 2015.11.05 jeudi 19:00-22:00: Lausanne Open Data vol. 3 Special meetup on Biomedical Data & Ethics (plus ici) • 2016.02.03 mercredi 19:30-21:00 Participants du Winterschool visitent OpenHackuarium vol. 83. (commencement de Montreux Clean Beach Project) • 2016.02.10 mercredi 19:30-21:00: Dans le Bourg pour le OpenHackuarium vol. 84 special music avec Living Instruments. • 2016.06.01 mercredi 19:00-22:00: Openhackuarium vol. 100 Hackuarium fête deux années de (bio)hacking à l’UniverCité! • 2016.07.20 mercredi 19:30-22:00: Openhackuarium vol. 107 Pole2Pole: Aventures de Mike Horn feat. BangBang agency (commencement de WaterDropDNA projet de Hackuarium). • 2016.09.21 mercredi 19:30-22:00: Openhackuarium vol. 116 «Hackuarium for dummies» (et les étudiants de Science de la Vie) + Apéromix de 8.30pm! • 2016.11.25-27 vendredi-dimanche 9:30-18:30: Science Hackathon 2016 La première Science Hackathon à l’UniverCité: let's hack research! • 2017.02.25 samedi 09:00-16:00: Octanis Arduino Workshop • 2017.05.03 mercredi 19:00-22:00: Open Hackuarium vol. 148 : WWF 'Swiss Litter Report’ Project presentation & Update Montreux Clean Beach Project • 2017.05.10-14 mercredi-Sunday: Biofabbing conference à CERN (Genève). Hackuarium contribution en particulier pour le partie ‘unconference’: Hackuarium visit, Hackuarium Satellite. • 2017.07.12 mercredi 19:30-22:00: Biology, one cell at the time • 2017.09.27 mercredi 19:30-22:30: Making a Film for Crowdfunding • 2017.11.29 mercredi 19:00-22:00: Open Hackuarium #178 - Alienated Landscapes • 2018.02.15 jeudi 19:00-22:00: Everything you always wanted to know about DIY science advocacy de Lucy Patterson. • 2018.03.28 mercredi 19:00-21:00: OH195 Open Hackuarium - une soirée special sur Phage-o-Therapie • 2018.04.21 samedi 14:00-17:30: DNA Damage Workshop - Open-sourcing DNA damage detection pour la recherche participative • 2018.06.01 vendredi après-midi: GMO Detective Workshop - présentation par Guy Aidelberg de CRI, Paris. Amenez votre aliment préféré, et voir si c’est OGM. • 2018.10.12 atelier oFoldscope à Shenzhen avec GOSH. • 2018.10.31 mercredi 19:00-22:00 Halloween Open Hackuarium #226 Grand récapitulatif pour le premier projet de jardinage urbain à Hackuarium et fête d’adieu à Renens. • 2019.01.18-20 le BBK Open Science Festival in Bilbao, Spain. Ateliers de Micronoyaux et oFoldscopes pour tout âge. • 2019.02.01 Déménagement à Ecublens • 2019.03.16 Saturday 13:00-17:00, BCUL, Palais de Rumine, Lausanne. 'Ramène ta Science' - Ateliers Living Instruments et oFoldscope. • 2019.06.12 mercredi 19:00-21:30: Open Hackuarium #OpenHackuarium- 'Lab Warming Party' notre pendaison de la crémaillère. • 2019.10.05 10:00-23:00: Hackuarium 5 year birthday party. Notre 5ème Anniversaire! • 2019.10.25 14:00-17:00: Notre premier Sciences and Technologies 'Kid's Club' event • 2019.11.02 Notre deuxième atelier pour OpenFoodRepoADN. Regarder les ingrédients des aliments avec la MinIon Sequencer! Here was background for the first workshop, • 2019.11.20 mercredi 14:45-19:30: Technologie génétique ! Et vous ? Discutons-en ! Conference organisé par sc|nat. • 2020.01.08 mercredi 19:00-22:00: Spectro-Pointer workshop with Gustavo! • 2020.02.15 samedi 11:00-16:00: Biohack Meet-up avec Fran Quero, Marc Dusselier et autres.

Over 200 Hackuarium related events are documented in our wiki. That’s not all we’ve done, however. After our arrival in Ecublens, we stopped keeping count of our weekly evenings called #OpenHackuarium, the number of which now exceeds 320. But already our 100th was a good sign of success. In Ecublens, the workshops and events continued, and then the pandemic arrived. From March 2020 these Hackuarium evenings took place virtually (by zoom or jitsi) or in small groups and preferably in the garden behind the cooperative (as [here] with three members of the iGEM team from EPFL ). We had to cancel the dates planned for the workshops on micronuclei (2020.03.14), on OpenFoodRepoADN, a second “kids' club” dedicated to our brains (in April), and also an intervention for the elders of Ecublens (their '55 + club '- on 2020.04.09). The virtual events like a 3-part series on participatory research with Colombian colleagues, from Arte Mas Accion, went very well with a translator of Spanish. We also virtually presented the data of our urban gardening project for the de Fête de la science ’in’ Ferney-Voltaire. The recent live streams on FaceBook (also on biomaterials) are another way of making our work known to the general public.

News articles:
We have a collection of articles in the press and other useful information for journalists here. Our very first mention in an article appeared in Bilan Magazine in May 2014. Clearly, it was the big launch of the BeerDeCoded project that generated the most media activity in 2015, during their Kickstarter campaign. Since then, we still regularly receive calls from journalists, and we love to share our experiences with everyone. We believe that doing interesting science could solve some societal problems, like water pollution, viral pandemics, or dying bees.

Presence on social networks
We of course have accounts on the following social networks, some being more active than others: • LinkedIn • Facebook • YouTube • Twitter • MeetUp • Mailchimp (newsletter archive) • Instagram

Use of online information sharing platforms

When a project is carried out at Hackuarium, the Internet is an absolutely crucial source of information. Indeed, it allows you to learn about other similar pre-existing projects. In order to also give back to the community, we decided to make the results of all our projects open. This is done through one of the biggest open source platforms: GitHub. We have our own organization there, in which more than forty projects are hosted as ‘repositories’ with how-to instructions. Thus, anyone who would like to recreate experiments, or build tools that have been developed at Hackuarium, can access all the information they need in just a few clicks, wherever they are in the world.

Here are some of the most active projects: Spectrophotometer: Incubator: Bioreactor:


We are always happy to have people contacting us with new ideas. It could be for a school or university project or just for fun or the challenge. Sometimes a company or another group wants to do a team building or have an information session on a particular topic. Our network can help with everything from individualised coaching to planning full on events. For example, we had the engineers’ group ORIF for a special event on biohacking and innovation. We have also had: 1) students who carried out experiments for their final high school projects (their ‘travail de maturité) on oral bacteria and on bioluminescent bacteria, or on chloroplasts extracted from microplankton; 2) bioartists who have explored their microbiome during part of a research fellowship (shared with friends at Utopiana in Geneva), biopigments and bioprinting, or even microscopic forms of dried tears (Image below); and 3) EPFL master students who did eight-week internships to study DNA damage for the project on genomic integrity (towards a 'cheek cell chip' prototype) or six months, working on simple spectro and bioreactor projects. EPFL's iGEM team came to Hackuarium to do some lab experiments during the pandemic, when their lab space was closed. Even when these projects are short term, they stimulate others, and can make people want to explore further. A short internship can also lead to a longer term commitment to the group. Who knows if a kid's club participant will not one day lead a project that will inspire us all?

Our workshops are always a good opportunity to meet new people interested in our open science activities. We still hope to be able to organize the 3rd edition of OpenFoodRepo-ADN (as soon as the vaccinations against covid-19 are done?). Again, we are looking for dates to relaunch other workshops (micronuclei, kids club, SpectroPointer). Maybe we can do them with only four participants a session, if the pandemic does not cool down …

Summary and outlook
Hackuarium would like everyone to be able to have access not only to scientific knowledge and tools, but also to understand why the evidence gained through experiments is so important. Comparisons with specific controls are essential in a well-defined context, for an experiment that will give results in which you can believe. Tests carried out with well-defined controls can only support or refute a hypothesis. In real science there is never absolute proof. Another experiment with different controls might turn a theory upside down. When media reports say ’this study has proven that ...’ - it is definitely not something to be believed blindly. So, one should not be surprised if the opposite is reported a few weeks later. We can always do new and better controlled experiences to gain more knowledge, because, and this is an absolute certainty, we can always learn something!

The name Hackuarium was coined by one of our co-founders, and sounds like an aquarium in French for a good reason. It highlights the transparency of our open and participatory science approach. To “hack” in our association is not about breaking the law. It rather suggests the idea of figuring out how to do something (for example, to solve a problem), even if it is quick or rather unusual. We like to "brainstorm" in our transdisciplinary teams, sharing knowledge and know-how, to "hack" the ideal solution. To think that biohacking means changing one’s diet, injecting a substance to make muscles grow, or putting a microchip under one’s skin (which we at Hackuarium term nutritionism, transhumanism, or "grinders," respectively) is not consistent with our open science perspective (even if we have colleagues who are the "grinders" in a way) and is not an objective for Hackuarium members, whose nickname is octopus (in French, les poulpes. See our logo at the top to understand this nickname. The eyes, with the open cogs, are also symbolic for 'open source,' for your information.)

We all basically want to have fun as we do things, to learn and experiment. We have learned a lot since the end of 2018, before moving to the space in Ecublens! (see Timeline.) Happy we not only did projects and the crowdfunding with Science Booster, but also the GMO Detective workshops with Guy Aidelberg, given the current situation! Our ‘club house’ building still has potential, with the ‘room without a roof’ potentially cool for bio-art exhibits and socially distanced (well-ventilated) work in the summer to come. From 9 to 99 years old, everyone is welcome to join us, give it a try and see what you think of biohacking, together.


De près ou de loin, nous promouvons la science ouverte !
Near or far, we promote open science!