Featured Maker: Robert Shepherd

Robert is a biomedical researcher pursuing his PhD in using transgenic plants to make vaccines for developing nations. Robert is part of a group that is promoting a DIY DNA amplification machine called OpenPCR. Ordinarily PCR machines cost several thousand dollars are firmly out of the reach of researchers, schools and hobbyists. Robert said that great technology and life saving therapies are often sadly too expensive to be used in low-resource environments but at least in the area of DNA analysis, the OpenPCR machine delivers an important tool to a wider audience.

“What is so brilliant about theOpenPCR project is that it can be used by almost anyone with a basic understanding of molecular biology, and isn’t cost prohibitive to get started,” Robert said. The machines are already being used in collaboration with CSIRO Education to introduce school kids to experiments in DNA that they wouldn’t have access to.  The ‘open’ stands for ‘open-source’ and Robert said that this approach provided huge potential for the application of the OpenPCR machines.

“We’re really proud to be the first group promoting this machine in Australia, but as they start to catch on with education, research and hobbyists, the applications in which they will be used is only limited by people’s imagination.”

Robert is inviting people at the Faire to come by and ‘play with DNA’ and have a chat about this exciting new field. Click to jump for a video on OpenPCR made at  at  a stateside Maker Faire.

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