I just came across this video (see below) by Tuur van Balen, a self-described Freelance Designer Researcher, who talks about hacking yogurt to produce the antidepressant Prozac. van Balen brilliantly combines fact (synthetic biology, lab techniques, biobricks) with fiction (to my knowledge, biosynthesis of Prozac, or flouxetine, a chemical hasn’t been demonstrated) to produce a powerful performance that is one part science, part THX-1138. (If you are really determined to make your own Prozac, read this.)
Other projects on van Balen’s website also reflect an artistic approach to science and synbio, such as Pigeon D’or, a synthetic biology project with the goal of making pigeon defecate soap:
By modifying the metabolism of pigeons, synthetic biology allows us to add new functionality to what is commonly seen as “flying rats.” A special bacteria is designed and created that, when fed to pigeons, turns faeces into detergent and is as harmless to pigeons as yoghurt is to humans.
Through the pursuit of manipulating pigeon excrement and designing appropriate architectural interfaces, the project explores the ethical, political, practical and aesthetic consequences of designing biology.
Art or science or both, van Balen is striking a nerve, and to me is an leading indicator of some of creative diversity that lies ahead in life science.
Finally, if you’ve got a biological idea you would like to see become reality (my vote is for coffee that makes 10x the caffeine) check out Singularity University’s new Launchpad program.