Bento Lab: Making DNA Analysis More Accessible

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One of the things that really excites me about DNA is that it’s almost like a map of your future,” says microbiologist Bethan Wolfenden, co-founder of Bento Lab.

As a PhD student, she and her partner, Philipp Boeing, wanted to create an an easy-to-use tool that would allow anybody interested in working with DNA to conduct a simple genetic analysis. So they designed Bento Lab — a small, portable machine that could do just that.

Wolfenden and Boeing initially hoped to fund the project through grants, but without a professorial pedigree, they found it difficult to raise funds. “Kickstarter was this alternative option where the people that wanted the product could back us and believe in us to the point where we could get [Bento Lab] out in to the world,” Wolfenden says. 

After two years of prototyping, they introduced Bento Lab on Kickstarter in March 2016, and found support from over 700 backers, who pledged more than £150,000 (over $200,000) to help make the project a reality. The device will be included in an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum Museum in London this May.

In the video above, Wolfenden talks about how the project got started, what she learned from running a Kickstarter campaign, and how beta testers have used Bento Lab for some surprising and fascinating projects — including a brewer who’s creating a genetic map of beer. 

Bento Lab
Bento Lab

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