From 2008 to 2014 the United States investedaround $820 million in synthetic biology research. About 0.07% as much money went to synthetic biology projects through crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Experiment.com. Of those crowdfunded projects, the Kickstarter campaign called Glowing Plants was by far the most well-funded. Glowing Plants, like its name suggests, aimed to genetically engineer plants that could light up using the genes from fireflies. After a tenuous four years of alternative funding and backup plans, the goal of making a brightly glowing plant is officially shelved.The question is whether Glowing Plants will continue to be the high mark for crowding funding of synthetic biology or whether there are future successes out there.
In 2013, Antony Evans got well overseven times his $65,000crowdfunding goal to engineer plants that light up. The pitchlaid out an ambitious plan for howthis fun glowing plant fit into the promise of synthetic biology. It was nothing like a technical grant proposal that a synthetic biology researcher usually submits for funding. It was selling the idea of a synthetic biology product that you could put on your desk. A fun novelty item thats more play than work. Unfortunately, technical hurdles exist even for playful ideas.
If you go back through Glowing Plants updates you can track the arc of theirambitions.
April 23, 2013: Glow Plants project launches on Kickstarter
April 30, 2013: How bright can we make our plants grow?
August 13, 2014: accepted by Y combinator! They got to present at the tech accelerators Demo Day and pitch investors.
April 10, 2015: Should we switch plant species
May 20, 2016: Help us build momentum on WeFunder! This platformed helped to raise another $250,000 for the project with donors buying small shares
August 3, 1016: 5 out of 6 genes successfully integrated into a plant
April 18, 2017: Stopping work on the Glowing Plant Contamination in the fragrant moss strains caused the team to downsize to still afford to get the planned shipments out. With the financial hit, their plan to put revenue toward the glowing plant research wasultimately halted. They conclude that that despite that failure the project can still leave a positive legacy in inspiring people to learn more about synthetic biology and its benefits and hopefully one day someone does finally make a Glowing Plant.
There has been plenty of media attention for both the initial hype of Glowing Plants and the eventual decline into unrealized ideas, but that doesnt mean there wont be other high profile uses of crowdfunding for synthetic biology.
Synthetic biology still makes it way onto a lot of the popular crowdfunding sites that have science:Kickstarter,Indiegogo,WeFunder andexperiment.com. Yet none of these campaigns have reacher the financial backing that Glowing Plants got. Typical synthetic biology crowdfunding is raising a few thousand dollars and is primarily supporting educational activities.
The most common kind of crowdfunding success involves the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition that gives student the chance to work on and present their own synthetic biology projects.Some successfullyfunded research projects include $3001 forDNA memory,$2500 fordetecting tuberculosis,$2189 for paper based pathogen detection, $1572 for detection of expired oxytocin medication,and $2120 for a high-school team studying crosstalk between neighboringgenes. Typical federal grants for synthetic biology research on the orders of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars over a few years.
Synthetic biology research is still expensive. For asynthetic biology product to be fundedand hit the market takes an enormous amount of money. While iGEM teams can count student learning itself as a victory, any crowdfunding that promises a deliverable product will be in trouble. For instance, experiment.com has a collection of iGEM projects being funded.
Glowing Plants creator, Antony Evans, wrote a piece on equity crowdfunding and explained why the inherent tension between promising rewards and the challenges and uncertainties of biological research makes Kickstarter a bad model for scientific research. He seesequity crowdfunding as a more powerful tool in the biotech space. This newly legal mechanism called title III equity crowdfunding allows early stage startups to raise money from any ordinary person in return for shares in the company.
But no crowdfunding mechanism brings along the advisory input one would expect from a traditionalinvestor. Good investors usually bring some expertise, guidance, or connections. Distributed funding is unlikely to bring that human capital. Even if some of your investors have those capabilities, none will have enough influence in the company to make an impact.
Synthetic biology will continue to get cheaper as DNA synthesis costs drop and the DIYBio community matures. That said, there are still many research projects that seem poorly suited for crowdfunding.
Ultimately, I think synthetic biology will get some victories in the crowdfunding arena. Its unlikely to be a cure for cancer or global warming, but hopefully theres a fun idea out there that can be made possible with small dollar backers and the power of biology.
See the appendix to the U.S. Trends in Synthetic Biology Research from the Wilson Center to calculate synthetic biology funding from 2008-2014.
Atlantic: Whatever Happened to the Glowing Plant Kickstarter?
MIT Tech Review: Why Kickstarters Glowing Plant Left Backers in the Dark
Synbiobeta: Review of RevBios Crowd Funding Campaign
Top Sites for Crowdfunding Scientific Research
Read this article:
Will crowdfunding get a synthetic biology win? – PLoS Blogs (blog)
- How to Crowdfund (with Pictures) - wikiHow - June 7th, 2018
- Property Crowd Funding - The Magic of Modern Day Investing - HuffPost - September 4th, 2017
- Getting Crowdfunding Fundamentals Down to A Science In Advance Of Campaign Key To Success - HuffPost - August 28th, 2017
- Dreamhost Crowd-Funding Legal Action Against DOJ - eWeek - August 22nd, 2017
- Buy a share in a brewery: Pozible launches equity crowd-funding site Birchal - The Sydney Morning Herald - August 1st, 2017
- Woman who contracted E.Coli returns home from Turkey after crowd funding appeal - Glasgow Live - July 9th, 2017
- Africa's first impact-focused equity crowd funding portal founder ... - CNBCAfrica.com - July 5th, 2017
- Crowd funding campaign to save a two-year-old kid - Times of India - July 2nd, 2017
- Arrowtown musician Holly Arrowsmith crowd funding new album - The Southland Times - June 26th, 2017
- Ex-Googler Lina Gantar launches crowd funding agency in Manchester - Manchester Evening News - June 25th, 2017
- Crowd funding could be used to buy the long-vacant Bell Building downtown - Wyoming Tribune - June 24th, 2017
- Wyo. Sec of State unveils new crowdfunding platform - Wyoming Business Report - June 16th, 2017
- Wyo. Sect'y of State unveils new crowdfunding platform - Wyoming Business Report - June 14th, 2017
- Where is the crowd-funding for the destitute? - News24 - June 9th, 2017
- Florida education news: #HB7069, teacher diversity, crowd funding and more - Tampabay.com (blog) - June 5th, 2017
- BBB Has Advice Before You Contribute To A Crowd Funding Site - Newstalkkgvo - June 2nd, 2017
- Catapooolt all set to Catapult Crowdfunding in India with an Asian Record - Bizztor (press release) (blog) - May 19th, 2017
- Should you invest in Bitcoins, crowd funding, P2P lending? - Economic Times - May 15th, 2017
- Cork Foundation's Live Crowd Funding event - The Avondhu Press (press release) - May 6th, 2017
- Impact Guru, GlobalGiving tie-up to scale crowd funding in India - Daily News & Analysis - May 2nd, 2017
- Plastc Card Is Cancelled: The Dangers Of Crowd Funding Tech - Forbes - April 29th, 2017
- Can crowd funding help scale up solar power for Africa's poor? - The Standard (press release) - April 25th, 2017
- Donate safely: Avoiding crowd funding scams - KXLY Spokane - April 20th, 2017
- Maharashtra schools raise Rs 216 crore via crowd funding - The Indian Express - April 18th, 2017
- Crowdfunding: affordable bee surveillance for hive health - Scoop.co.nz (press release) - March 29th, 2017
- Crowd funding: SECP warns of false scheme - The Express Tribune - March 28th, 2017
- Arsenal fan plots sensational crowdfunding campaign to BUY the club from owner Stan Kroenke - The Sun - March 23rd, 2017
- How to make crowdfunding work for you - Buffalo Business First - February 13th, 2017
- Crowd funding | ASIC's MoneySmart - September 17th, 2016
- Crowd Funding - October 23rd, 2015
- Crowdfunding - P2P Foundation - October 23rd, 2015
- Comparison of crowdfunding services - Wikipedia, the free ... - September 5th, 2015
- Fundraising Script,Crowd Funding Script,Crowdfunding ... - August 14th, 2015
- The Life Chest: Crowd Funding Video - Video - May 5th, 2015
- THIS TOKYO #FASHION BRAND GIFT CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES SURPRISE! #THIStm - Video - May 4th, 2015
- THIS LOVE #FASHION BRAND GIFT CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES SURPRISE! #THIStm - Video - May 4th, 2015
- THIS PSYCHIC #FASHION BRAND GIFT CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES SURPRISE! #THIStm - Video - May 4th, 2015
- THIS SUPER #FASHION BRAND GIFT CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES SURPRISE! #THIStm - Video - May 4th, 2015
- THIS ROADHOUSE #FASHION BRAND GIFT CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES SURPRISE! #THIStm - Video - May 4th, 2015
- THIS BEYOND #FASHION BRAND GIFT CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES SURPRISE! #THIStm - Video - May 4th, 2015
- THIS HEARTBREAKER #FASHION BRAND GIFT CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES SURPRISE! #THIStm - Video - May 4th, 2015
- THIS WWW #FASHION BRAND GIFT CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES SURPRISE! #THIStm - Video - May 4th, 2015
- THIS GENUINE #FASHION BRAND GIFT CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES SURPRISE! #THIStm - Video - May 4th, 2015
- True Colours Crowd funding Campaign - Video - May 4th, 2015
- THIS NEW YORK 2015 #FASHION BRAND GIFT CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES SURPRISE! #THIStm - Video - May 4th, 2015
- Armitage Dinosaur - crowd-funding video - Video - May 3rd, 2015
- Who benefits from crowd funding? - Video - May 3rd, 2015
- The Man Who Found His Freedom - Video - May 3rd, 2015
- Crowd Funding proof V1 - Video - May 3rd, 2015
- TEN FOOT TONE - New CD - TASTE GOOD - Video - May 3rd, 2015
- One Spark/Tamarin Fruits - Video - May 1st, 2015
- Crowd Funding Video- BROKEN ROAD (Short Film) - Video - April 30th, 2015
- Crowd Funding video San Jose Bike Clinic - Video - April 28th, 2015
- Domestic Violence & Abuse Help Break the Cycle - Seed the Books Crowd Funding Campaign - Video - April 28th, 2015
- LEARN IT | BUILD IT | MANAGE IT: FINANCING - Crowd Funding - Video - April 27th, 2015
- Crowd Funding- Habitat for Humanity Charity Trip to Cebu in June 2015 - Video - April 27th, 2015
- Annalakshmi on the swan Crowd funding 14 04 15 WM - Video - April 26th, 2015
- Beat Buddy Inside Story - Video - April 26th, 2015
- Engineers Corset Crowd Funding Video - Video - April 26th, 2015
- "Welcome to the Shop" -HPER Team Crowd Funding Campaign - Video - April 24th, 2015
- Toms Crowd Funding 32 SD 480p Copy - Video - April 24th, 2015
- Blake Lodge Centre, Plymouth Deaf Association - Crowd Funding - Video - April 24th, 2015
- Copy of Heart Vs. Head Crowd Funding Campaign-Final Request - Video - April 24th, 2015
- April 2015: Help Wall St for Main St Crowd Fund! - Video - April 24th, 2015
- Climate for Change Crowd funding video - Video - April 24th, 2015
- Sacred Foundations, Inc. Crowd Funding Intro - Video - April 23rd, 2015
- Specialty Beer - Video - April 23rd, 2015
- Crowd Funding Take 4 18 15 - Video - April 23rd, 2015
- Baby Got Wings / I Like Big Bugs - Video - April 23rd, 2015
- Evolution of Color in Australian Frogs Crowd Funding - Video - April 23rd, 2015
- Creative Lab Curaao over crowd funding actie Revive Gomezplein - Video - April 23rd, 2015
- My TubeStart update! - Video - April 23rd, 2015
- Alphaworks Equity Crowd Funding Platform Rebrands To Quire - Video - April 23rd, 2015
- Community Crowd Funding - Video - April 21st, 2015
- TOP Foundation Crowd Funding Video - Video - April 21st, 2015
- HIR 3 - crowd funding campaign on TravelStarter - Video - April 21st, 2015
- Get us to the World body painting festival - Video - April 21st, 2015
- BluSticks Crowd Funding Video (ENT 4113 - Group 6) - Video - April 21st, 2015
- Skin4Nino crowdfunding - Video - April 21st, 2015
- Sacred Foundations, Inc. Crowd Funding Video - Video - April 21st, 2015