Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

A event log for Disrupting Cell Biology Hack Chat

From a styrofoam box to lab grade instruments

LutetiumLutetium 06/05/2019 at 20:030 Comments

Hello all, it's noon here on the West Coast and we're ready to kick off the Hack Chat. We're excited to have Noah, Sebastian, and David from Incuvers today, here to talk about how the company is "Disrupting Cell Biology" with some instruments that have some pretty deep hacker roots.

Welcome, Incuvers folks! Think you can kick us off with a round of introductions?

Paúl joined  the room.12:00 PM

Noah Tompkins12:00 PM
Hey guys! Thanks for joining us. For those who don’t know much about us, we are a startup based out of Ottawa, Canada called Incuvers and we’re about to release a live cell imaging incubator called IRIS that lets researchers to remotely monitor and record all their experiments. Our website is if you want to see more about what we’re all about!

Paul joined  the room.12:01 PM

sebastian12:01 PM
We're here! and we're live!

David Sean12:01 PM
Hi all!

Paúl12:01 PM

zxzxzx010112:01 PM

Taiwo12:01 PM

Taiwo12:02 PM
Let's get started...

sebastian12:03 PM
@Taiwo, let's !

jonathan_woren12:03 PM
hey where did the idea come from??

I think the best way to kick it off is where I heard about the project that would become Incuvers:

Taiwo12:04 PM
Oh.. don't mind me.


Get Biohacking with a DIY CO2 Incubator

The [Pelling Lab] have been iterating over their DIY CO2 incubator for a while now, and it looks like there's a new version in the works. We've covered open source Biolab equipment before including incubators but not a CO2 incubator. Incubators allow you to control the temperature and atmosphere in a chamber.

Read this on Hackaday

sebastian12:04 PM
ya. So that beautiful piece of styrofoam you see there was the original incubator

Paúl12:04 PM
How much of your business model is based on that of Makerbot?

sebastian12:05 PM
testing the standard quo on why incubators are so expensive

Paúl12:05 PM
I love the idea of "the YT of cellular research"!

It's quite hackish looking

@sebastian - Because they can be?

sebastian12:05 PM
We built it to see if we could get something working for a few hundred bucks that normally cost 8K

sebastian12:05 PM
and it worked!

sebastian12:06 PM
@Dan Maloney Exactly...

Conrad12:06 PM
Stick it to the man!

Paúl12:06 PM
are my questions showing up?

sebastian12:06 PM
The economics and business of science don't favour the scientist

Yeah - I used to work in bio labs, and the insides of $100,000 instruments look like somebody's kid's science fair project.

sebastian12:07 PM
@Paúl What do you mean exactly my their business model >

Noah Tompkins12:07 PM
@Paúl yes they are!

David Troetschel12:07 PM
What is the professional status of HardwareX?

Paúl12:07 PM
Well, Makerbot started by selling their little Cupcake kits, and that spawned a whole series of other printers and a number of other businesses, e.g. thingiverse, shapeways

Paúl12:08 PM
Do you intend to follow that path, or to rephrase, where do you see Incuvers in 5-10 years?

Noah Tompkins12:08 PM
@Paúl glad you like the idea! Right now cell experiment photos and videos are completely decentralized. We're trying to fix that.

Seems like the science suppliers all know that researchers have access to grant money and need to turn it into publications ASAP. Forces the economics and favors soaking them.

*seeking them, as in high prices

Noah Tompkins12:09 PM
@Paúl we see Incuvers taking a pretty similar model to makerbot actually. The "youtube of cellular research" is also intended to kind of be a "thingiverse of cellular research"

Noah Tompkins12:09 PM
In 5-10 years we hope to provide as much if not more value with our open software platform as we do with our hardware

sebastian12:09 PM
@Dan Maloney It's also the fact that there's a great deal of R&D cost vs market size. To justify the price, you need to charge significantly higher

Paúl12:09 PM
that's very cool. What sort of licensing do you see being applied to the data uploaded to your services?

Paúl12:10 PM
e.g. if Merck can save $500k on an internal cell trial by using data uploaded by some researcher, and make $100m from some drug developed from such a trial, how should the researcher that shared that video be rewarded?

David Sean12:11 PM
@David Troetschel there is a paper draft that has been sitting in limbo for a while, we hope to publish it soon though!

Paúl12:11 PM
you could do quite well working out licensing / data sharing agreements with drug or healthcare companies in conjunction with the biomed researchers that are making this data!

sebastian12:11 PM
@Paúl Excellent question. Every researcher will have full privileges as to whether they share their data for others

David Troetschel12:12 PM
@David Sean thats good to hear

Paúl12:12 PM
although I will concede that a lot of cellular research isn't really applicable to drug development / discovery

sebastian12:12 PM
Its becomes a slippery slope to start applying licensing on their data. For all the obvious reasons.

sebastian12:12 PM
Technically, that's tax payers money too!

Paúl12:12 PM
yes of course!

sebastian12:13 PM
It's something I foresee evolving as we move forward. With the help of scientists and large biotech companies. To ensure rightful ownership etc..

Paúl12:13 PM
but it's an as-yet unexplored space; I'm sure there's some way that you could succeed in spite of those challenges

sebastian12:13 PM

sebastian12:14 PM
we wouldn't be doing it if we didn't think we could pull it off

David Troetschel12:14 PM
we must seize the means of production...

sebastian12:14 PM
@David Troetschel ahaha

David Troetschel12:14 PM

David Troetschel12:14 PM
but really

Paúl12:14 PM
you could talk to Elsevier

Paúl12:15 PM
only half /s

Conrad12:15 PM
carpe fabricatio

sebastian12:15 PM
@Paúl It'll be interesting to see how they evolve too. Their entire business model is pretty crazy

Daren Schwenke12:15 PM
@Conrad :)

sebastian12:16 PM
charging people to have access that they're paying for anyways

sebastian12:16 PM
We're starting to see open science paper gain a lot of traction. The stigma of publishing in them is fading

sebastian12:16 PM
and truthfully, everyone wins.

David Troetschel12:17 PM
still waf as evidence of last defcon though

Paúl12:17 PM
how do you know if a cellular growth video is real or ai-generated? o.O

David Sean12:17 PM

David Troetschel12:17 PM


SCIgen - An Automatic CS Paper Generator

One useful purpose for such a program is to auto-generate submissions to conferences that you suspect might have very low submission standards. A prime example, which you may recognize from spam in your inbox, is SCI/IIIS and its dozens of co-located conferences (check out the very broad conference description on the WMSCI 2005 website).

Read this on Mit

So sick of running up against paywalls while researching topics for Hackaday articles. Recently hit one for a 60 year old paper with a total of five citations. WHat's that about?

Paúl12:17 PM
could have people faking data!

Paúl12:18 PM
@Dan Maloney use !

David Troetschel12:18 PM

RichardCollins joined  the room.12:18 PM

Noah Tompkins12:19 PM
@Paúl that's a good point actually! We will have to validate legitimacy somehow

David Sean12:19 PM
or request a copy via researchgate, although maybe not for a 60 year old paper...

David Troetschel12:19 PM
libgen exists

sebastian12:20 PM
@Paúl They would have to own our system, and some how fake it through our optics... That's a lot of work for trying to fake it. Good luck!

I actually requested a reprint. The publisher said they'd get back to me once they cleared it with the authors. All of whom have been dead for decades.

David Sean12:20 PM
oh god

Paúl12:20 PM
@sebastian I assume you use a USB camera? they could just swap it for a usb-out UVC device!

Saren Tasciyan12:20 PM
One issue researchers might be afraid of is being scooped. In areas, where competition is tough, no one wants to share "too" much.

Paúl12:21 PM
@Saren Tasciyan Usually open-data archives are published after the paper is out, so 'scooping' is prevented (mostly)

Paúl12:21 PM
gets harder when you have multiple papers!

David Troetschel12:21 PM
@Saren Tasciyan tbh moment of fame or what?

Noah Tompkins12:21 PM
@Saren Tasciyan yes this is true! Researchers have the option to share or not. So if people don't want to share they don't have to

Paúl12:22 PM
it's hard to justify your grant proposals when all or some of your previous proposals have been copied/scooped by someone else who takes credit for them @David Troetschel

Noah Tompkins12:22 PM
We have talked to a couple folks who want to stay private. But it becomes a marketing platform for them after they publish.

Saren Tasciyan12:23 PM
@Paúl Oh, sure. Sometimes, idle projects also kept secret for "just in case" forever.

David Troetschel12:23 PM
a patent is just the right to sue, so at-least in the United States it becomes a case of sellout or trade secret and limited market. @Paúl

RichardCollins12:23 PM
I have been reading, trying to follow, wondering what you are trying to accomplish. Is this about startups, or publishing and credits? Most of the successful ones don't tell anyone what they are doing, do it, charge a fair price, and go on about their lives. If you have a product that does what you say it will do, meets all the requirements, and helps people, that fits the way things have gone on until now.

Saren Tasciyan12:24 PM
I agree that all projects financed by the state need to be published/shared eventually. If that process is simplified and monitored, then great!

David Sean12:24 PM
....and reproduce! we want people to share experimental setups between systems. essentially so that an author that uses our incubation system can share the "protocol" that can easily be imported to other units to be reproducable

David Troetschel12:25 PM

David Troetschel12:25 PM
A citation, but verification of physical reproduction and operation

Paúl12:25 PM
do you expect to extend your system to liquid sample delivery or spectrometry?

David Troetschel12:26 PM
open source hardware should have a system to verify reproduction it seems

David Sean12:26 PM
we would love to have a fluidic setup in the future

Paúl12:26 PM
if you don't, someone else will make a secondary market for those addons

David Sean12:26 PM
@David Troetschel , yes also that researchers all have their niche requirements which can be challenging to implement using standard industrial incubators. We intend for ours ( powered by a raspberry pi and an arduino) to be modded if need be.

Paúl12:26 PM
but do be aware of scope creep

Noah Tompkins12:26 PM
@Paúl that's very true. Depending on how things go, we might explore the development of those add-ons ourselves

RichardCollins12:27 PM
Yes, government/publically funded research should be open, but it is hard to enforce.

You can start a nonprofit for sharing. For profits are prevented by law from working together except with strict legal oversight. It can be done either way.

Traceability or "auditability" are two words I find useful.

Noah Tompkins12:27 PM
In the future

David Sean12:27 PM
3rd party addons are fine!

sebastian12:27 PM
@Paúl Are you in a lab ?

Saren Tasciyan12:27 PM
@David Sean Fluidic automation is tough!

Paúl12:28 PM
@sebastian how secure can a raspberry pi really be? someone could just train a neural net on videos of cell colonies dying, then get the NN to spit out a completely unique video of a cell colony dying and claim it was from their drug!

David Sean12:28 PM
yeah, we are putting that one hold, but keep it open in that we will have an access port on the side

Paúl12:28 PM
@sebastian I am in a laboratory, but not a microbiology lab at the moment. feel free to PM me