Ellen Jorgensen

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Ellen D. Jorgensen[1] (born 2 June 1955) is a New York-based molecular biologist leading the do-it-yourself biology movement. She works to increase scientific literacy in the general population, particularly in the fields of molecular and synthetic biology.[2][3] She is a co-founder of both Biotech Without Borders and Genspace.[2] In 2017, Ellen Jorgensen was named one of the Most Creative Leaders in Business by Fast Company.[3]

Education and career[edit]

Ellen Jorgensen graduated from New York University (NYU) in 1977 with a B.A. in Biology. She then went on to earn both her MA and MPhil in Biological Sciences from Columbia University in 1979 and 1981, respectively.[4] Jorgensen returned to NYU where she obtained her Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology in 1987 from the Sackler Institute.[5] She later went to SUNY Downstate as a post-doc to continue research in protein structure and function.[5]

Jorgensen devoted many years of her career to various positions within the biotechnology sector.[5] She spent eight years, from 2001 to 2009, as the Director of Biomarker Discovery and Development at Vector Research, researching early biomarkers of tobacco-related lung disease.[5] In 2009, she co-founded the community biohacker space, Genspace.[6] In 2017, Jorgensen founded Biotech Without Borders, a second nonprofit community biotechnology lab.[3]

Ellen Jorgensen is currently adjunct faculty at The Cooper Union in New York City.[2] She has given two TED talks: "Biohacking -- you can do it, too" and "What you need to know about CRISPR", which have received over two million views.[2]


In 2009, Ellen Jorgensen co-founded Genspace, the first nonprofit community biotech lab. In 2010, Jorgensen initiated Genspace's curriculum of informal science education, leading to the company being named one the World's Top 10 Innovative Companies in Education.[2][7][8] The goal of Genspace is to increase scientific literacy in the general public by providing classes and workshops, as well as a space for community members to get involved in a biotechnology laboratory.[9] In March 2017, Ellen Jorgensen stepped down from her role as execute director, to be replaced by Genspace co-founder, Daniel Grushkin.[10] Jorgensen became president emeritus.[10]

While Genspace was created with the goal of making scientific literacy more accessible, the organization was met with criticism by those that felt that hands-on science should be left to the professionals.[9] Despite this criticism, Genspace has continued on, along with a larger community of hacker spaces opening worldwide, fostering an open environment of scientific collaboration and learning between amateurs and professionals.[9][6]

Genspace is located in Brooklyn, New York. The lab follows Biosafety Level 1 restrictions.[11] Different membership tiers are offered providing access to events, classes, lab access, participation to community projects, and more.[12] In the spring of 2018, community projects will be offered in the fields of mycoremediation, open plant collaboration, and optogenetics.[13]


  • World's Top 10 Innovative Companies in Education (Fast Company, 2014)[8][7]
  • Maker Space of the Year (Brooklyn Innovation Awards, 2016 & 2017)[14][7][10]

Biotech Without Borders[edit]

In 2017, Ellen Jorgensen stepped down from her leadership role at Genspace in order to found Biotech Without Borders, where she now acts as President.[3][2] Biotech Without Borders is a Brooklyn, New York based nonprofit public charity dedicated to enabling communities underrepresented in the biotechnology field to gain hands-on biotech lab experience.[15] Biotech Without Borders focuses on providing a Biosafety Level 2 lab space, distributing biotech resources to labs worldwide, and engaging the public through hands-on lab classes, workshops, and events.[16] It is the first Biosafety Level 2 lab open for public projects. Compared to Genspace, Biotech Without Borders seeks to facilitate engagement with more authentic high-level science.

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ "Ellen D. Jorgensen". Bio Art, SVA NYC (bioart.sva.edu).
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Ellen Jorgensen". Global Community Bio Summit. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  3. ^ a b c d "Ellen Jorgensen- THNK School of Creative Leadership". THNK. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  4. ^ "Ellen Jorgensen | LinkedIn". Retrieved 2017-03-27.
  5. ^ a b c d Aiolova, Maria. "ONE Lab". www.onelab.org. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  6. ^ a b Jorgensen, Ellen. "Ellen Jorgensen | Speaker | TED". Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  7. ^ a b c "Support Us". Genspace. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  8. ^ a b "The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies In Education". Fast Company. 2014-02-13. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  9. ^ a b c Jorgensen, Ellen. "Transcript of "Biohacking -- you can do it, too"". Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  10. ^ a b c "Ellen Jorgensen stepping down as head of Genspace, Daniel Grushkin to replace - Technical.ly Brooklyn". Technical.ly Brooklyn. 2017-03-29. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  11. ^ "About the Lab". Genspace. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  12. ^ "Join the Lab". Genspace. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  13. ^ "Community Projects". Genspace. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  14. ^ "Here's who won the Brooklyn Innovation Awards last night - Technical.ly Brooklyn". Technical.ly Brooklyn. 2017-01-06. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  15. ^ "About Us". Biotech Without Borders. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  16. ^ "Our Mission And History". Biotech Without Borders. Retrieved 2018-03-30.

External links[edit]