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11/08/2010 - Battle of the Sweat Bugs! from Connor at Singularity ( YGAW by Silicon Sentier)

Connor, one of my fellow students at Singularity, is a scientist, artist, inventor and futurist who explores the edge of human-machine communication. He studied at Queen’s university and the MIT Media Lab

He describes his latest invention for the first time on  YGAW!


Can we build the Napster of deodorant with Biotech?

I think we can.

Armpits stink not because sweat is smelly but rather because the bacteria Streptococcus Epidermis (SE), which lives all over our skin, eats our sweat and metabolizes it into an offensive effluence. As a result, we collectively pay billions of dollars to the cosmetic and hygiene industry in exchange for deodorants and antiperspirants.

With today’s technology it is possible to make the deodorant industry irrelevant by using engineered bacteria.  Simply develop a new strain of SE such that it has two altered traits:

(1) Alter SE’s metabolic pathway such that it no longer produces an offensive smell.  Work in this area has already been completed. Students participating in the iGEM contest have engineered SE to produce banana scent.

(2) Increase SE’s fitness to approach 100%.  This means that this strain of SE will be so strong that it will overpower not only the resident bacterial population on your body, but through the community effect it will eventually overpower a whole population’s SE colonies.

With these two new functions working in tandem it will be possible to “inoculate” the world against offensive body odor using exponential peer-to-peer networks, thus negating the need for deodorant.

How would the cosmetic and hygiene industry respond to the loss of their market?  It is my belief that they would not die without a battle. They would spend millions on developing their own augmented strain of SE introducing their own branded scent and increasing fitness to overpower any previous SE colonies.  Of course, in turn another entity would seek to engineer an even more powerful strain of SE… And so on…

Our bodies may become a battleground were corporations seek to design and own our micro-flora populations.

Connor Dickie -

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