April 25, 2013
UPDATE (6/4/2013): The project met its $65,000 goal on April 25. As of June 4, the project has raised $441,302. Fundraising will continue through June 7.
UPDATE (6/3/2013): The ETC Group and Friends of the Earth are raising concerns about the implications of this project. You can read more about their campaign and petition to stop the project here.
The Glowing Plant project, the first crowdfunded project featuring synthetic biology, is close to reaching its fundraising goal mere days after first taking contributions.
The project, which is associated with biotech startup Genome Compiler, is looking to raise $65,000 to design a DNA sequence that will make a plant glow. The project appears likely to reach its goal with time to spare: As of the morning of April 25, the project has raised $63,935 from 979 backers, more than 42 days ahead of its June 7 fundraising deadline.
The Synthetic Biology Project spoke with Glowing Plant’s Anthony Evans at the SynBioBeta conference in November 2012, where Evans discussed plans for the crowdfunding campaign. Here is our conversation, the first of a series of short interviews with entrepreneurs in the synthetic biology space:
In addition to its very successful fundraising, the Glowing Plant project is significant because it could lead to one of the first releases of a synthetically designed plant that has received conditional approvals from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which regulates agriculture via its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
“We've been in touch with them to understand and address their main concerns which are mainly related to the introduction of potential plant pests,” the group says on its Kickstarter page.
The group also says USDA has a set of guidelines regarding further testing. “So long as we meet all their requirements we can safely release the plant,” the group says. “One of their inputs was that we should use the gene-gun technique to transform our plants, instead of Agrobacterium.”
The Glowing Plant project is reportedly the first synthetic biology project on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform known more for funding comic books, records and films. Per the Kickstarter model, Glowing Plant project funders are signing up to receive premiums from a t-shirt ($25) to a packet of seeds for a glowing plant ($40) to having a message written into the plant’s DNA ($10,000).