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Create GLOWING PLANTS using synthetic biology and Genome Compiler's software - the first step in creating sustainable natural lighting
Create GLOWING PLANTS using synthetic biology and Genome Compiler's software - the first step in creating sustainable natural lighting
Create GLOWING PLANTS using synthetic biology and Genome Compiler's software - the first step in creating sustainable natural lighting
8,433 backers pledged $484,013 to help bring this project to life.

Radical Openness

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One of the benefits of funding a project like this through kickstarter is that you aren't beholden to the interests of traditional shareholders or government funding agencies.  This means we can stay closer to our values and pursue a philosophy of Radical Openness and today we wanted to tell you about why we are doing this and what it means for you our backers.

Traditionally a project like this would have been done either in a research institute or in a company with investors.  Both these groups would have required strong IP protection and patents.  This has two effects, first it reduces collaboration and second it restricts progress as it makes it harder for others to build on this work.

Because of your support we are able to do something different.  All of the output from this project will be released open source - the DNA constructs, the plants etc. If you get seeds from your plants they are your seeds to grow more plants or give to your friends as you wish.

But we will go one step further than this and will be sharing online all of the work we are doing - the ups as well as the downs.  In fact our DNA designs are already publicly available and if you download Genome Compiler's software you can view them. We think this is the right model for DIY Bio projects because:

  • It educates people about a process which is normally hidden from view which holds us accountable to you our supporters and hopefully inspires others to work in the field
  • It provides an alternative real-time system of peer-review on our work* which should improve the quality of what we do
  • It shares knowledge in real-time meaning others don't need to wait two years for publication in an academic journal before they can start building on the work

We are also really excited about what crowdfunding can mean for young scientists with cool ideas.  Being a post-doc researcher working towards tenure can be a tough slog, but crowdfunding empowers them - and that can only be a good thing.

Antony, Kyle and Omri  

Lucas Zapico likes this update.


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    1. Bill Ang on May 6, 2013

      Can I get your $250 item living outside USA ?

    2. fmachard on May 3, 2013

      IMO getting a commercial license OR a creative commons license would make sense if only to protect your work from companies that might rip it off. That said getting licenses doesn't mean you have to enforce it if you don't want to.

    3. Missing avatar

      Donald A. Lane on May 3, 2013

      I agree with Nathanael's earlier comment about not wanting to see some large corporation reaping the benefits from your open source work. I also agree that defensive patents are needed. That being said, at some point this work needs to be commercialized in some fashion, if only to fund continued research. Research costs money, and money has to come from somewhere.

      For the initial stages of a project, Kickstarter or other crowdfunding measures are a good way of getting the ball rolling. Eventually, a project needs to become self-supporting at some point, otherwise it's simply not going to be sustainable over the long term.

      This project has *great* long term potential. I like Nikolay's vision of glowing fir trees along a highway, but it's going to take considerable time and money to make something like that happen. I love the thought of glowing highway markers, and imagine the esthetic potential of a glowing garden. Awesome!

      What I would suggest is a four-tiered structure: Developers, Large Commercial, Small Commercial, and Private Individual.

      Taking them in reverse order, a Private Individual would be allowed to plant, grow, breed, reproduce, and give away seed without restriction.

      Small commercial would be able to do those things upon payment of either a one-time or annual license fee. As part of the fee, they get to be listed as a licensed grower/breeder/seller of the plants, and could display an official logo in their advertising, and on plants/seeds sold.

      Large commercial would be similar to the above, but would be required to pay a percentage royalty on all sales.

      Developers would be required to give credit (attribution) for the patents used, and would also be required to pay royalties. Royalties would only apply to actual sales -- development could be done freely. Similar licensing requirements would apply to their customers.

      Royalties and licensing payments would be reasonable -- high enough to support the research, but low enough to not be burdensome or inhibit the growth of the technology.

      As I see it, the bottom line should be to make the project self-supporting, and disseminate the technology as widely as possible, at minimum cost to the end users.

    4. Nikolay Bezhko on May 3, 2013

      Hey guys, well done! But what about fir-trees?
      Dreaming about lights along the highways.

    5. Jears on May 3, 2013

      The spirit of openness embedded in the project was one of the things that really appealed to me. The project involves subjects I don't normally pay much attention to, but I'm certainly going to enjoy following along and reading around in the literature. I shall also add my voice to the "love technical details and citations" brigade.

      Regarding the discussions on commercial selling: I'm uncomfortable with the idea of say, someone setting up an ebay business (Best! GlowPlants!$$$). At the same time, total restrictions on small-scale market stands also don't sit well with me. I am going to give plants away, because 1) This particular application ranks high on the awesomeness scale and 2) I'd like to see this technology more widely appreciated and understood -- small scale selling will let plants/information reach people who might otherwise never see it.

      There are middle ways. I help out at a stand at RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court (where plant breeders & gardeners go to exhibit flowers and have public nervous breakdowns); the creator(s) of a plant variety may sometimes grant limited propagation/commercial rights to other individuals/small nurseries.

      If this does get put to the vote, as Antony suggests in the main comments, I'd like to see that as a middle-ground option.

    6. Antony Evans Creator on May 3, 2013

      James: thanks for your feedback. Would welcome more comments from others.

    7. James Blaha on May 3, 2013

      I really like the ethos and I support it wholeheartedly, but I think preventing someone from growing these plants and selling them at their local farmers market is a mistake and is against the spirit of openness. The reason for the whole project is to get these plants into peoples homes. Like tejeev I planned on giving away plants as well, but I think the idea of someone showing up at a market with a table full of these to sell will grab the attention of the public more than anything.

    8. Missing avatar

      TJ on May 3, 2013

      I can live by these precepts. It adds value to this strain, and if it is resilient, I may still be growing its children when better is to be had as a momento of early research in the field. It is unfortunate that we can't sell them, but I can tell you I will be giving away many plants (likely more than I could have sold) and this will go a long way to getting this kind of work more accepted in the general public.

    9. Antony Evans Creator on May 2, 2013

      David: The idea is that the Arabidopsis seeds should be just for backers of the project, that's the benefit you get for supporting the project. That's why we won't sell them afterwards. We might, at a future date, sell other plants building off the work (as might others who do the same) but we think the first plant should be exclusively for backers of the campaign which is why we don't really want them to be sold.

    10. AlmostHuman
      on May 2, 2013

      Perhaps the way to satisfy both the open source and the "reasonable profit" motives is to follow some of the Linux models: the item is free, but you can pay for premium support. I also get the "defensive patents" issue. I think it provides insurance for current operations as well as providing some future assurance that you'll be able continue your exciting (and potentially game-changing) work.

    11. David MacDonald on May 2, 2013

      Antony, I love that you guys are keeping all your research and findings as transparent as possible, However, I am concerned that by not allowing people to sell plants or seeds, you may be preventing people from getting them at all.

      I'm not much of a gardener, nor are any of my friends. I don't really know how I would get seeds or plants without buying them in a store or on the Web.

    12. Antony Evans Creator on May 2, 2013

      Aaron: Exactly which license we are still debating in the team. For sure open source for full use in DIY Bio, where the team is not sure is regarding commercial applications. Eg we don't think someone should setup a business selling the glowing plant seeds. What do you think?

    13. Antony Evans Creator on May 2, 2013

      Nathaneal: We've been advised to take out defensive patents on our work, that can be used only to defend against others creating patents. You can ready about this here:

    14. Antony Evans Creator on May 2, 2013

      Jan: The * was supposed to say that someone from the University of Cambridge iGem team has already downloaded and reviewed our designs

    15. TechnoSphere on May 2, 2013

      For this post you get my support,even if I can't get the plant :(

    16. Jan Babiuch-Hall on May 2, 2013

      As another young scientist disillusioned with the patent and copyright system, I too am very proud and appreciative of the open and transparent way you are conducting this project (even though as a physicist with only a moderate background in biology and genetics I personally don't have the knowledge to analyze or improve upon it).

      I do have a question, however: I'm understandably somewhat allergic to asterisks so I have to ask, what's the fine print behind that asterisk in the second bullet point?

    17. Aaron Curtis on May 2, 2013

      Nathan has a point, though. Exactly what license will you release your work under?

    18. Aaron Curtis on May 2, 2013

      And, hopefully scientists will someday realize that work done using closed-source code cannot actually be verified by peer review, since the reviewers actually have no idea what is going on in the computer, or in this case, in the cells!

    19. Aaron Curtis on May 2, 2013

      Inspiring. As a young scientist who is disgusted by the structure of the modern intellectual property system (which seems designed to support lawyers and their large corporate clients, rather than individual inventors, the public, or our national economy), it is thrilling to realize there is an alternative.

    20. Kermode Bear on May 2, 2013

      I deeply appreciate that you're making your research available to the public. Science works best when we're able to freely share and exchange information and ideas. I understand that private companies would want to protect their research, and they're very much entitled to the benefits of doing so, but you are in a very different situation. This is a great call - thank you.

    21. Nathanael Pine on May 2, 2013

      Just out of curiosity, would someone be able to take your open work and create something that could be patented? The only reason I bring this up is that I would hate to fund something that espouses your ideas, with which I pretty much agree, and then have it wind up increasing someone (who's looking to keep knowledge to himself) else's bottom line. IE, I'm not really interested in funding Novartis.

    22. Antony Evans Creator on May 2, 2013

      Donald: good idea, we'll do that.

    23. Vincent T Chan on May 2, 2013

      I was just done reading about Salk too!
      Can you patent the sun?

    24. Missing avatar

      Donald A. Lane on May 2, 2013

      How about a little info on growing Arabidopsis for your next update? Info on stuff like light/shade, soil, growing zone, hardiness etc. would be a nice to have. My wife is already trying to plan where in her garden these plants are going to glow. :)

    25. Missing avatar

      Brendan Neff on May 2, 2013

      Very nice. Not only are the things you mention important, but publishing your failures could potentially lead to breakthroughs for other, completely different products. It's a shame more failed R&D experiments are publicly available so others could learn from them.