OpenDrop: an ecosystem of open digital microfluidics

Eugenio Battaglia, @battagliaem

This is a presentation given on 20 January, 2016, at the Open Tools and Infrastructure for Biology 2016 held at Newcastle University.

OuiShare, OpenDrop.

OpenDrop is made by a group of labs and individuals. In order to increase reproducibility and lower errors, automation is a common solution to as many of the (pipetting mixing splitting, labelling and handling) steps in the lab as possible. In microfluidics in biology there are, broadly speaking, two categories: channel microfluidics and electrowetting.

Wheeler Microfluidics Lab in Toronto are developing a machine called DropBot. They are interested in openness where possible. Then, via their digital biology uResidency, they looked into producing something that was like, but cheaper than, the DropBot. They came up with their “Open Science Digital Bio Device”. They studied the 50 most used and labor instensive protocols in biological labs, and tried to come up with was to apply these protocols to their design. The result is OpenDrop. Then DropBot people were happy with the collaboration, and blogged about OpenDrop and its relationship to DropBot. The Waag Society (see Pieter’s talk from earlier today) also organized a microfluidics hackathon. This was just the start – there are a number of other similar efforts.

For the future, the idea is to have people really involved in certain areas of future tasks because they are interested in that area. Contributions are ad hoc, as the people have time. The mixing between engineering and biology has really accelerated, and the DIY BIO movement is popular. However, some projects are not sustainable, and why is this? Is it money? Is it when the community is more of a bazaar or a cathedral (Eric S. Raymond)? Perhaps it’s less about being a cathedral or a bazaar, and more of a simple design issue – is it a good design, or a bad design?

“Platforms are essentially bureaucracies for the networked age” (I lost the owner of this quote). Deloitte (The Value Multiplier) says there are 4 business models in history: asset builders, service providers, technology creators and, more recently and perhaps more importantly, network orchestrators. He describes how a project will be responsive and collaborative when there is both a high alignment of goals and a high level of autonomy. The governance model he really likes is Liquid Organization (the cocoon project). The governance meetings are a mixture of weekly coordination, monthly catch up, quarterly kick off, and global jam (twice yearly).

Please note that this post is merely my notes on the presentation. I may have made mistakes: these notes are not guaranteed to be correct. Unless explicitly stated, they represent neither my opinions nor the opinions of my employers. Any errors you can assume to be mine and not the speaker’s. I’m happy to correct any errors you may spot – just let me know!


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