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Open Science Challenge Winner: Derek Jacoby

Scientist on August 22, 2012
Image courtesy of Global Community Bio Summit.

Today, we look at our second winner of the Bay Area Open Science Challenge and his work. Derek Jacoby is studying gout treatment and effective means of self-monitoring, so any fan of fancy foods (myself included!) should take note of his research.

Can you provide a quick background about yourself?

My undergraduate background is in statistical software development and cognitive psychology with a degree from Rice University, but a decade at Compaq and then Microsoft Research in speech recognition led me deep into the computer industry. Since leaving Microsoft in 2006 I’ve done a lot of sailing and boatbuilding, but academically have begun to dive into biology. In 2008 I founded an iGEM team at the university of Victoria and we competed for two years before my impending master’s degree rendered me ineligible.During this time, I attended Singularity University at NASA Ames and became acquainted with the folks founding BioCurious. In the summer of 2011 I returned to build the BioCurious lab and teach bacterial transformation and PCR classes at Singularity University. I currently divide my time between the bay area and Victoria, BC where I am engaged in my PhD work.

Why are you interested in your research project? Have you tried pursuing it in the past?

My research project is partially for my own benefit. In 2007 I experienced my first attack of gout. It was agonizing! By changing my diet and exercise patterns I’ve been largely able to control recurrences, but it’s a continual monitoring process and there have been other flare-ups. The transformative element in my process has been accurate monitoring to determine which aspects of my diet and lifestyle are most contributive to high uric acid numbers. I have good techniques for controlling my own production numbers, but having a probiotic method of improving uric acid clearance would be of great benefit to me and everyone else with gout. I have tried only very limited informal tests on myself, but there is good literature support for the idea, and having the opportunity to address this type of study in a community lab is exciting.

How’d you hear about the Open Science Challenge?

I frequently attend BioCurious both in person and through the telepresence robot, named biot, that I built to stand in the corner of the BioC lab. The Open Science Challenge was a frequent topic of discussion there and hopefully the start of a great partnership between Scientist and the community labs like BioCurious (and, the community lab I run in Victoria, BC.)

What does winning the prize mean to you?

The prize is a great chance to make headway on a problem that could make a big difference to me personally and others. I’m also excited about the open science aspect of having funding to help community labs build the knowledge to usefully address individual biological questions and issues with tools and resources that would previously have been locked up in academia or the pharmaceutical industry.