A few month ago I spotted pictures of the Bento Lab on twitter, a compact suitcase sized mini PCR lab for the field. My first thought was: “Cool, I need one!” and the second one: “What could you do if you combine this with the NanoPore MinIon sequencer? High throughput sequencing in your backpack!”

This is huge! We already have the MinIon Sequencer at our lab, and immediately will get the Bento Lab once it is available (you can preorder it right now). The bento lab gives you all you need to amplify DNA in the field: A 12 well PCR machine (whit heated lid), mini centrifuge (12,000 rpm) and a gel-electrophoresis chamber with illuminator, all in a compact package of only 3 kg (6.6 lb). The specifications sound really good! While the Bento Lab will probably find it’s widest application as an educational tool in schools, It’s also a great toy for scientists.

Many scientists will of cause have access to high end PCR labs, and it might be often better to just take your samples in the field and bring them back to the laboratory. Also, analysing HTS data in the field, should you be able to generate them with the Bent Lab + Minion, might not very practical. Maybe we will this in a students course on excursions to remote places at some time.
But all the current practical limitations and the “a complete fully fledged laboratory will always be better” talk is besides the point. The perspective of doing DNA based work in the field is just amazing, and is also something that scientists can pitch to the public and get people exited about research. The Bento Lab brings us a huge leap closer to the tricorder in your pocket wich can identify any living organism, Dan Janzen was talking about in this video in 2009.

Additionally, there is another aspect: price! The Bento Lab cost around 750$ the MinIon 1000$, maybe you need 5000$ for consumables and pipettes, and you have your self a full functional laboratory. I hope this will liberate the scientific research market for developing countries, wich did not have the funding for fully fledged laboratories. This would add a huge amount of knowledge about worldwide biodiversity and close a lot of gaps in the wold map of DNA barcodes of the Bold database.

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Distribution of DNA barcodes available on the BOLD database (November 2015)

In conclusion, I’m just super excited about the Bento Lab! It will get science back in the hands of students and also scientist which had previously not the funding for DNA based research. Keep up the good work bento bio!

Why the Bento Lab is a big deal!

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