The Power of Open Source in Biology - DAMP Lab’s $10K Biofoundry

The DAMP Lab is a fledgling biofoundry within the new Biological Design Center at Boston University. Using less than $10,000 of open-source software and hardware, the DAMP lab is able to offer 30 synthetic biology protocols (such as DNA assembly, transformation, sequencing, and plasmid purification, among others) as a fee-for-service to the scientific community. Any scientist can specify an experimental plan remotely via the DAMP lab web interface and their automated system can design, build, and test that plan.


How did they do it?

By integrating a handful of open-source tools, the DAMP lab could quickly develop a complex system that efficiently and elegantly automate biological circuit testing. Some of the key open-source tools used are:

  • Cello enables the automated design of biological circuits using Verilog programming language.

  • Aquarium for LIMS to enable job queuing and inventory management

  • Opentrons’ OT-2 pipetting robot for automating DNA assembly, transformation, and many other protocols.

You can read more about the DAMP Lab's technology stack over on the Synbiobeta blog here.


Why is the DAMP lab’s biofoundry and open source important?

The DAMP Lab talks about their open-source technology and what it empowered them to do in this video.

The project shows the power of open-source software and hardware in the lab. When executing all these process manually, the DAMP lab would spend a week to design, build and test 10 genetic circuits. For relatively minimal investment in open-source technology, DAMP lab has 10x its throughput.


The result is that the DAMP lab is able to execute 10x as many experiments with the same facilities and team. Open-source tools enhance the productivity and greatly reduce the cost of executing sophisticated experiments.

A powerful biofoundry does not need to be a multi-million dollar investment - affordable, open-source tools put these capabilities within reach of every lab.