Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Is this Scientific paper on Genetic Encryption publishable?

The paper in question:
How to Protect your Genetic Assets Through Obfuscation and Encryption
In software based systems, obfuscation and encryption are techniques used to prevent reverse engineering and access to information. As society progresses towards using more Genetically Modified Organisms(GMO) and DNA sequencing becomes more inexpensive, a company’s genetic intellectual property can be reverse engineered and stolen by simply analyzing the DNA sequence. To prevent theft, techniques will need to be used that obfuscate and encrypt what changes are being made in the genome. This paper provides different methods that allow the safeguarding of years of research and development and millions or billions of dollars in monetary investments.
For the past few months I have been working on the fairly novel idea of genetic encryption. You can find a few sparse mentions of it on the internet but as we like to say in Science, to my knowledge this idea has never really been explored in depth.

I began by thinking in the context of how a company could protect a genetic asset(GMO) that is worth alot of money due to its genetic traits. I am usually on the other side, trying to break the protections but there needs to be something to break before one can break it. So I decided to try and build it.

I ended up writing a paper that runs through examples and ideas on how someone could institute Genetic Encryption and Obfuscation. Though I wouldn't consider the paper my finest work, it definitely has its merits, foremost because it is a prediction of our biological future.

Originally, my acknowledgments included:
"To everyone who is doing good Science for shit pay because someone tells you there is price for doing what you love. And to everyone who wants to fuck the system because it really needs it."

After consideration I took out the second  sentence about fucking the system because I thought maybe it was going too far. I was wrong.

I heard about bioRxiv and thought it would be a great place to submit the work as it is a free publishing server that promotes openness in Science. I knew my paper was more Biological theory and so might suffer some prejudices but I didn't know it would be this bad.  Usually these pre-print servers do not reject any papers unless they are ridiculous. My paper was rejected... The moderator said it was because the paper not experimentally based! I guess I understand that maybe bioRxiv only wants experimentally based papers but why?

Arggghh. Fuck the system, I put that line back in the paper.

Ok, well, maybe I can submit it to aRxiv another Scientific publishing server that focuses more on math and theory. I have submitted a single author paper there before and it was published without any issues. Genetic Encryption seems to fall under math and theory so it seems like a good fit. I submitted it to the Quantitative Genomics section(Genetics and Encryption seems to fit there) and thought nothing of it and then I received an email this morning that the paper was rejected.

The email:

The moderators determined that your submission was in need of significant review and revision before it would be considered publishable by a conventional journal.  Please note that arXiv moderators are not referees and provide no feedback nor detailed reviews with the removal of submissions.

WTF? What revision does the paper need? I am sure there are some small issues with it but significant revision? I guess it is partially my fault. I know some of the people in the Genomics pre-print community and they are pretty militant and dear I say stuck up assholes?

Where to next? I don't want to pay to have a Scientific paper published because that is the totally opposite point of Science but I want people to see this paper. I think it is interesting(maybe I am wrong) and I think it could spur some interesting innovations and discussions.

In the end what this all really tells me is just FUCK THE SYSTEM.

When someone can do serious Science but can't put it out there for people to see how is this system supposed to work?

Are we really doing Science anymore?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wildtype vs Mutant

I have been feeling a little angry lately because it seems like the ability for DIY Scientists to accomplish things is still difficult. This is noticeably seen through a lack of Scientific publications or data generated by us.

People in DIY Bio seem to be working towards something that doesn't seem possible because of the lack of resources, knowledge and tools.
Papers, plasmids and strains that would be dirt cheap if the whole system wasn't run by profiteering gluttons($65 for a plasmid, seriously addgene? $200 for a strain at atcc).
Academic scientists sit by and use the phrase "open science" as a motto of apathy. How long would publishers survive if scientists stopped citing and publishing in their journals? Or refused to pay publishing fees? And just posted data to their website instead? And DIYers remain with no access.

At The ODIN(, I have been trying to provide cheap prices and single researcher size quantities to DIY Scientists to allow them to do experiments. After lots of contemplation, I want to move away from my job as a Scientist at NASA because I think big things can happen in DIY just like what came of the computer hackers in the 90s. I want to help that stuff happen by creating more resources and tutorials for people.

This is where I need your help.

In the next few months at The ODIN, we have plans to release a Codex of plasmids and bacterial strains(yeast maybe?) for cheap. We want people to have the resources they need. Sign-Up at and let me know what you are looking for or need.

We are also planning a crowdfunding campaign to take cutting edge genetic engineering tools like CRISPR and make them accessible physically, intellectually and financially. We might be looking for some beta-testers soon. Again, Sign-Up at to keep updated. (Also, let me know what you think of the video)

I think that until genetic engineering arrives in many homes, what we do will just be scary and misunderstood. At The ODIN, we want to create a conversation around "Why do people think mutants are bad when they are here to save us?", i.e. Wildtype vs Mutant.

I appreciate all the support people have given The ODIN so far and I hope to continue to provide to the community through biting commentary and ad hoc Science.

Finally, to make DIY more successful get involved if you aren't already. Teach classes at your local hackerspace, if you can't, then write tutorials online(I would be glad to host them on The ODIN), mentor other DIYers or if you need a mentor contact me!

There is a little ways to go before DIYers can accomplish cutting edge Science so let's make this thing work, together.