Developed as a means of introducing the concept of DNA synthesis/synthetic biology to the general public and how it is used at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) for biofuels research, Bioscriber debuted on October 13, 2012 at the Berkeley Lab Open House.
The initial tutorial level of this educational module shows how information from nature in the form of enzymes identified through bioprospecting and genome sequencing can inform the breakdown and conversion of plant biomass into an advanced, non-ethanol biofuel.
Open House participants, over 6,000 strong, had the opportunity to first conduct a hands-on enzyme assay choosing from a selection of a more than a dozen different fungal species to test the level of cellobiase breaking down cellobiose—the two glucose units obtained from cellulose-rich biomass. While samples incubated, participants clicked their way through Bioscriber which was hosted on several laptops. The results of the enzyme activity were then plotted so that the public could appreciate the differential expression of the enzyme based on the habitat of the particular fungus.
The Bioscriber module is an ongoing project, with the next phase targeting the introduction of additional features and optimizing the module as a mobile app. The development team is pursuing a crowdsourcing approach whereby those who provided feedback on the initial launch will have an opportunity to help develop subsequent releases. Bioscriber can be accessed at bit.ly/bioscriber. Additional photos from the Berkeley Lab Open House can be viewed at bit.ly/JGI-OH12-pix