Genetic Testing With Lego

From the dark recesses of the Internet circa 2009 comes the BioBrick-A-Bot, a liquid handling system for molecular biologists.

The 2009 iGEM competition was a student competition to build devices for synthetic biology. The BioBrick-A-Bot’s goal is to build a simple, low-cost liquid handling system that sucks liquids out of petri dishes and into vials.

Like most lab equipment, the commercial version of this tech is insanely expensive – about 10 grand for a commercial liquid handling robot. The BioBrick-A-Bot is made nearly entirely out of LEGO parts, so the cost of the entire system was brought down to about $700.

There are two main parts to the BioBrick-A-Bot. The Alpha module holds four pipette on a delta platform We’ve seen this type of robot built out of LEGO before, but moving liquids is new territory. The Phi module contains all the mechanics to suck microliters of liquid into a pipette and spit them out into vials.

The BioBrick-A-Bot didn’t win the 2009 iGEM competition (that honor was taken by students from Heidelberg Cambridge), but we’d take a LEGO robot any day of the week. Check out the demo after the break.


Thanks [Okian] for sending this one in.

7 thoughts on “Genetic Testing With Lego

  1. Correction: The 2009 iGEM competition was won by Cambridge (UK) for the creation of the colour parts (here).
    Also the iGEM competition stands for international Genetically Engineered Machine Competition where undergraduate students (and a couple of high school teams) compete to create novel genetically engineered machines to perform a range of different tasks. With my team in 2009 (Imperial College London) we engineered a common laboratory -and safe- strain of bacteria (E. coli K12) to be a protein drug production and delivery system targeting the gut. The idea was to help people with genetic defects -such as Phenylketonuria– to palliate their insufficiencies. More info here
    Some selected projects:
    E Chromi Cambridge 2009
    E Glowli Cambridge 2010
    Cell spacial organisation Slovenia 2010
    Mercury sensor Peking 2010

    Another cool competition coming soon in bioengineering revolves around DNA origami is Biomod.

    Let me know if you want more info :D

  2. When you said it was insanely expensive, my mind jumped to the $200k+ range, so I was actually pleasantly surprised when you said it was only $10k. Science is expensive; or, at least, people are willing to pay a premium for it (your choice of terminology).

  3. kind of scary for our privacy.

    fortunately the dna databases and lookup system that the police uses is off limits to the public so we should not have to worry about someone rummaging your garbage and pulling dna from that used bcr.

  4. pretty cool

    but, made by a team of postdocs and experts
    $700 for proof of principal
    not very practical…still pretty cool though

    i could see other people using parts of this project for other things

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