"BioForge aims to create new a mode for the cooperative invention, improvement and sharing of biological technologies. The goal of BioForge is to foster a protected commons of biological technologies that will be freely available to the worldwide inventive community under the terms of an "open source"-based license."
BioForge is explicitly modeled on SourceForge, which bills itself as "the world's largest Open Source software development website." BioForge will function as a discussion commons, information resource, and repository of data, code and software tools for the world of open biology. A FAQ is available, and BIOS is soliciting comments, suggestions and questions about BioForge in its discussion area.
Because genetic research is powered by digital tools, innovating better tools in the public domain helps move control over genetic research out of the sole hands of big corporate labs in the developed world. University research benefits from open tools. Scientists in the developing world to participate more fully in global research using open source biology. And it's quite possible that key breakthroughs in the fight against emerging diseases can come from small research groups using open biotech tools.
The importance of these sorts of tools is something to which Jim Kent can attest. Kent, a scientist at UC Santa Cruz, helped the public Human Genome Project tie its corporate rival Celera in the race to decipher the human genome, which, in turn, may have helped keep the human genome itself in the public domain. He did it by writing an open-source DNA assembler from existing pieces of free software and his own innovations. This is precisely the kind of tool which BIOS will be helping to innovate and spread freely.
But it's not just tools. BioForge hopes eventually to bring a collaborative, copyleft approach to a whole realm of solutions for making biotechnology less centralized and controlled: