A graduate of the MIT Media Lab has created the prototype for a bioreactor which can be used to produce dietary supplements in your own kitchen.

Farma: a prototype home pharmaceutical laboratory

Will Patrick’s profile is a rather unusual one. A graduate from the MIT Media Lab, he is a scientist by training but has recently been working for a period as Artist in Residence at Autodesk in San Francisco. Based on his experiences there he has now come up with Farma, a reactor intended for home-brewing medicines and diet supplements. The prototype he has designed has so far produced spirulina capsules. The appliance brews up a synthetic version of the spirulina bacterium, then purifies and filters it and transforms it into powder. The idea is that the consumer will then use the accompanying pill-maker to fill gel capsules in order to obtain a home-made supply of this popular dietary supplement.

Les gélules de spiruline produite par Farma

Spirulina gel capsules made using the Farma bioreactor (Photo: Will Patrick)

This MIT-trained scientist may well be offering us a vision of how in the near future – in five or ten years’ time – making dietary supplements could be part of everyday kitchen activity. However, taking this a step further and marketing the equipment for the purpose of producing medicines would pose some ethical questions and also raise legal issues. How can you regulate home-made pharmaceutical products? How can you prevent excess, abuse or errors? Farma may have really opened Pandora’s box here. The positive thing however is that this may shake up our pre-conceived ideas. If this approach could be properly regulated and made safe wouldn’t that be a step towards a world where people could take back control over their own health? Speaking at the Impact.tech event in San Francisco on 5 January on the theme of ‘Hacking Biology for Good’, Will Patrick underlined that ‟biology is gradually becoming personalised.”

By Pauline Canteneur