December 5, 2019
BioClub is an internationally-recognized lab and community hosted by FabCafe & Loftwork for people interested in the intersections of biology, art, and design. By providing a lab and tailored events, workshops, and activities, the community aims to promote the understanding and application of, as well as business opportunities in biotechnology.
As a visual artist pursuing bioinformatics research, BioClub co-founder Georg Tremmel was interested in using biology to generate meaningful art and experiments. When he first moved to Tokyo, he was looking for a DIY community to exchange ideas with and a lab to work in. While the community existed; it was dispersed.
“There was not one central place we could come together,” Tremmel recalls; he saw an opportunity and began to imagine such a space with his collaborator and fellow artist Shiho Fukuhara.
Almost on a whim, they pitched the idea to Loftwork CEO Mitsuhiro Suwa, and President Chiaki Hayashi.
To Tremmel and Fukuhara’s surprise, instead of pushback, they received enthusiasm. Loftwork’s Suwa and Hayashi were seeing the promise in the worlds of fabrication and biology coming together through client engagements – and were on board.
In 2015, the four of them began sketching out concepts on how a community and lab could fit into Loftwork’s existing co-working space model. They decided to build out the lab and creative work space in MTRL in FabCafe, an entity of Loftwork, in the heart of Shibuya.
Over the past four years, BioClub has become the premier DIY bio community and destination in Tokyo and has recruited more than 30 core members from 8 countries.
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BioClub has an award-winning lab space located in Shibuya, Tokyo with the following equipment:
- Fridge 4ºC
- Freeze -20ºC
- Gel Electrophoresis Kit
- Plant Tissue Station
- Bento Bio Lab
SHA, inc., a Tokyo-based design firm, planned, art directed, and designed the BioClub’s visual identity to critical acclaim; the design won three international awards including THE ONE SHOW, D&AD, and NY ADC.
To honor its mission of building a culture around biotechnology and its focus on digital fabrication culture, the designers at SHA, inc. sought to create a visual symbol made by programming and graphic design. The three types of “BIO” typography are inspired by the fact that a proto cell, the origin of life, has a simple lipid membrane structure. The design derives not only from the aesthetic sense of the designer, but also explores the possibility of a more organic visual of life by incorporating the laws and dynamics of nature and the physical world.
BioCamp: Garden as ‘Biotechnik’
In 2018, BioClub partnered with the Japan Foundation Asian Center and Lifepatch to organize and hold an international workshop called “BioCamp: Gardens as Biotechnik.” Twenty participants from a range of specialized fields and 18 different countries spanning Southeast Asia, America, and Europe traveled to Tokyo for this eight-day curriculum and an opportunity to make meaningful connections.
Led by two lecturers, three instructors, and three facilitators, the BioCamp program featured talks on art and bio-art as well as hands-on workshops about DIY lab equipment, bioink, CRISPR kits, and plant tissue cultures, visits to specialist facilities, and actually producing and presenting work in groups.
One highlight included visiting the Shinjuku Kyoen park, where participants were given an exclusive tour of a secret Emperor’s garden to learn about the history and elements of traditional Japanese gardens.
Participants engaged in wide-ranging dialogue and furthered their understanding of each other’s expertise, interests, and worldviews making for an unforgettable week. For more information: BioCamp: Gardens as Biotechnik Report
WET / WEAR – FAB / FABRIC
This dialogue series explored what fashion could be in our digital era. Given the fashion world’s increasing use of CAD modeling and other virtual techniques to simulate designs, the BioClub community considered how the role of designer and 2D modeling is changing. Panelists included Hatra designer Hayami Nagami, author and culture theorist Mederu Kiritori, and Yuko Kurata, translator and editor. For more information:WWFF vol.2 Fashion between 2D and 3D, the shifting reality after CAD and Instagram
This was a hands-on, 10-week lecture series for biohackers organized by the Waag Society in the Netherlands. Students were taught the basics for how to design, build, use and share their very own bio lab – including how to build and use equipment for experiments, how to conduct experiments using microorganisms (cultivating bacteria, genome engineering, CRISPR, etc.), and how to integrate these techniques into their personal projects. For more information: A lecture series for biohackers / Announcing the start of BioHack Academy 5
Every Tuesday evening, BioClub hosts weekly meetups, providing tailored programming, education, and knowledge sharing for its community members. It’s an opportunity to connect, exchange ideas, and learn together.
For example, if a member wants to learn about DNA extraction or fermentation, BioClub will identify and bring in an expert to give a workshop or provide a tutorial on the topic or technique.
“We expose them to this technology, and see what they want to do with it,” says Tremmel.
It’s often as much about what they’re learning as it is about the setting they’re doing it in. Tremmel explains that BioClub commonly attracts young students who enjoy the collaborative nature of the community and prefer to learn with a group, rather than at home by themselves, watching a YouTube video, for example.
The community currently has 30-40 core members and continues to grow. If you are interested in joining, please feel free to email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or come to the weekly events. See BioClub Facebook for latest events.
“I joined BioClub for the opportunity to interact with people who share a common belief that microbiology knowledge should be democratized. Although I compensate my teammates, their motivation comes from eagerness to learn and willingness to help others. For us, it’s [about] learning by doing. In academia, you have a well-structured curriculum; at BioClub, we have the freedom to cherry pick practical knowledge that is most relevant to our projects.”
– JiKong Chan, Member of BioClub since August 2018
Chan’s works at the BioClub have spanned various workshops including DNA fingerprinting, genome editing, synthetic biology, and brainstorm sessions to clone bacterial gene that digests plastic.
“My hope for the future of BioClub and the wider community is to actively solve the problems that we face. BioClub and others like it, are places where these solutions can emerge. With the Internet, we lost. Let’s see where we can go with bio.”
– Georg Tremmel, Co-founder of BioClub