Over the last decades a new class of scientists and technicians has quickly emerged. Their daily tasks consist of tinkering with life at the most fundamental level. Though scattered across the globe, within their laboratories these geneticists share a common base of knowledge, practices and equipment. From here, humanity seems destined to take the biological future in its own hands. This photographic essay is an attempt to take a close look at the proceedings. Here, a streakplate with genetically modified yeast for research on drug-resistance of a malaria parasite.Wim Klerkx, 2001-2003.

Over the last decades a new class of scientists and technicians has quickly emerged. Their daily tasks consist of tinkering with life at the most fundamental level. Though scattered across the globe, within their laboratories these geneticists share a common base of knowledge, practices and equipment. From here, humanity seems destined to take the biological future in its own hands. This photographic essay is an attempt to take a close look at the proceedings. Here, a streakplate with genetically modified yeast for research on drug-resistance of a malaria parasite.
Wim Klerkx, 2001-2003.

Laboratory bench of a geneticist, with standard equipment and chemicals.

Laboratory bench of a geneticist, with standard equipment and chemicals.

Changing room for laboratory workers. The part of the laboratory where work is done on human stemcell cultures, can only be entered with special clothing and covering hair and mouth. this is to protect the stemcells against contamination of and between experiments.

Changing room for laboratory workers. The part of the laboratory where work is done on human stemcell cultures, can only be entered with special clothing and covering hair and mouth. this is to protect the stemcells against contamination of and between experiments.

A cupboard containing raw chemicals used to make various reagents and a trolley with glasswork waiting to be cleaned and sterilised for re-use.

A cupboard containing raw chemicals used to make various reagents and a trolley with glasswork waiting to be cleaned and sterilised for re-use.

A petri-dish with undifferentiated cellmass of a tomatorace. The cellmass was yielded from tomato-leaves and bombarded under high pressure with microscopic gold-particles to which a rice gene called nad9 was attached. The aim is for the gene to reach the genetic material of the tomato-cells and transfer its positive traits to the tomato-race.

A petri-dish with undifferentiated cellmass of a tomatorace. The cellmass was yielded from tomato-leaves and bombarded under high pressure with microscopic gold-particles to which a rice gene called nad9 was attached. The aim is for the gene to reach the genetic material of the tomato-cells and transfer its positive traits to the tomato-race.

In the foreground the stretched out campus of the University of California. Spread out over the campus, numerous departments and research groups work on virtually all aspects of molecular biology.

In the foreground the stretched out campus of the University of California. Spread out over the campus, numerous departments and research groups work on virtually all aspects of molecular biology.

The laboratory's 'Kitchen', where glasswork gets washed and sterilised for re-use. In most labs in western countries plastic disposables are the preferred lab-materials.

The laboratory's 'Kitchen', where glasswork gets washed and sterilised for re-use. In most labs in western countries plastic disposables are the preferred lab-materials.

The 'wet-lab' of a research-group at the University of California in Berkeley. Here, research is done on the structure and function of organic molecules like DNA, RNA and protein.

The 'wet-lab' of a research-group at the University of California in Berkeley. Here, research is done on the structure and function of organic molecules like DNA, RNA and protein.

A microscope slide with slices of a mutant mouse. It was mutated so as to cause problems with the early development of the heart. Midway through gestation the embryo was removed and stained with dyes. With the use of a microscope, research can be done on congenital defects in mammals.

A microscope slide with slices of a mutant mouse. It was mutated so as to cause problems with the early development of the heart. Midway through gestation the embryo was removed and stained with dyes. With the use of a microscope, research can be done on congenital defects in mammals.

The planning board indicating the hereditary material to be decoded for the day.

The planning board indicating the hereditary material to be decoded for the day.

Code-stickers and an overcoat in a loboratory where genetic material is being deciphered.

Code-stickers and an overcoat in a loboratory where genetic material is being deciphered.

An experimental DNA chip to simultaneously decode 96 fragments of DNA. Currently, many buildings full of equipment and highly trained people are needed to decode the genome of a single organism. By following the lead of micro-electronics, with miniaturisation and automation the expectations are that this can be done many times faster and cheaper in the future.

An experimental DNA chip to simultaneously decode 96 fragments of DNA. Currently, many buildings full of equipment and highly trained people are needed to decode the genome of a single organism. By following the lead of micro-electronics, with miniaturisation and automation the expectations are that this can be done many times faster and cheaper in the future.

A nutritive layer with E.Coli bacteria colonies, of which the genetic material is enriched with a random segment of human DNA. It is used to decode the human genome by means of the 'shotgun' method. Random segments human DNA are transferred to bacteria which are then multiplied and decoded. Supercomputers fit and lace the millions of decoded segments together to complete the human genome.

A nutritive layer with E.Coli bacteria colonies, of which the genetic material is enriched with a random segment of human DNA. It is used to decode the human genome by means of the 'shotgun' method. Random segments human DNA are transferred to bacteria which are then multiplied and decoded. Supercomputers fit and lace the millions of decoded segments together to complete the human genome.

A PhD-student working on an experimental set-up to test the DNA-chip that he designed. Using a blue laser for the reading of the base-pairs, this chip should enable decoding fragments of DNA much faster than is possible today.

A PhD-student working on an experimental set-up to test the DNA-chip that he designed. Using a blue laser for the reading of the base-pairs, this chip should enable decoding fragments of DNA much faster than is possible today.

Store-room for radioactive materials used for genetic research.

Store-room for radioactive materials used for genetic research.

Well-glass containing 9 different crystallised forms of the Cyclin Dependent kinase 2 protein, which plays a roll in the development of cancer. With steady nerves and hands the proteins are purified and diluted in a liquid. In a process that takes months the proteins are crystallized. This is necessary to enable bombardiing them with x-rays. The diffraction pattern then gives the clues for deciphering the molecular structure of these proteins. In a similar way, the structure of the DNA-molecule was discovered in 1953.

Well-glass containing 9 different crystallised forms of the Cyclin Dependent kinase 2 protein, which plays a roll in the development of cancer. With steady nerves and hands the proteins are purified and diluted in a liquid. In a process that takes months the proteins are crystallized. This is necessary to enable bombardiing them with x-rays. The diffraction pattern then gives the clues for deciphering the molecular structure of these proteins. In a similar way, the structure of the DNA-molecule was discovered in 1953.

Office of the head of a research-department, with an antechamber for the secretary.

Office of the head of a research-department, with an antechamber for the secretary.

Seoul National University at the southern edge of the city. The highrise building in the centre houses the department of the life-sciences where efforts have been made to clone human embryo's, but failed.

Seoul National University at the southern edge of the city. The highrise building in the centre houses the department of the life-sciences where efforts have been made to clone human embryo's, but failed.

A polyacrylamide gel stained with silver ions, with the visible traces of left by a yeast protein.  Running a gel is one of the standard procedures in a molecular biology lab.  With an electric tension, organic molecules are forced to  migrate through the gel. From the distance travelled thus, data can be obtained on the molecular size and weight. This gel was used to obtain data from the yeast-protein srl1.

A polyacrylamide gel stained with silver ions, with the visible traces of left by a yeast protein. Running a gel is one of the standard procedures in a molecular biology lab. With an electric tension, organic molecules are forced to migrate through the gel. From the distance travelled thus, data can be obtained on the molecular size and weight. This gel was used to obtain data from the yeast-protein srl1.

A 'Micro-Array' containing 43200 yeast-cultures, placed by a robot on a microscope-slide. Much molecular biology research boils down to exposing yeast or other micro-organisms  to large series of substances, looking for a desired effect. To speed up such research and cut costs, companies experiment with automatizing the dull and time-consuming aspects of this type of research.

A 'Micro-Array' containing 43200 yeast-cultures, placed by a robot on a microscope-slide. Much molecular biology research boils down to exposing yeast or other micro-organisms to large series of substances, looking for a desired effect. To speed up such research and cut costs, companies experiment with automatizing the dull and time-consuming aspects of this type of research.

Transgenic mice in air-controlled cages to prevent cross-contamination between experiments. The white mouse is widely used model-organism used for genetic research. It is a complex mammal that is still relatively easy to breed and maintain.

Transgenic mice in air-controlled cages to prevent cross-contamination between experiments. The white mouse is widely used model-organism used for genetic research. It is a complex mammal that is still relatively easy to breed and maintain.

A bottle of glycerol with the prepared embryo of a mutant mouse. In this mouse, a gene was introduced that causes craniofacial and lung defects, such as cleft plate and palate. The embryo was removed after 18 days and was prepared in such a way that the flesh is translucent, the bone stained red and the cartilage blue. This way a researcher can see how such congenital defects develop in an early stage.

A bottle of glycerol with the prepared embryo of a mutant mouse. In this mouse, a gene was introduced that causes craniofacial and lung defects, such as cleft plate and palate. The embryo was removed after 18 days and was prepared in such a way that the flesh is translucent, the bone stained red and the cartilage blue. This way a researcher can see how such congenital defects develop in an early stage.

An office shared by 5 PhD students molecular biology.

An office shared by 5 PhD students molecular biology.

A petri-dish with a number of 1 and 2-cell zebra-fish embryo's, fixed in a gel to enable injection under a microscope. The relatively large embryo's are used to develop techniques to introduce foreign genes into an organism at the earliest stages of its development.

A petri-dish with a number of 1 and 2-cell zebra-fish embryo's, fixed in a gel to enable injection under a microscope. The relatively large embryo's are used to develop techniques to introduce foreign genes into an organism at the earliest stages of its development.

A university library with standard works on genetics and molecular biology.

A university library with standard works on genetics and molecular biology.

The framed portraits of all co-workers of a university department of molecular biology.

The framed portraits of all co-workers of a university department of molecular biology.

A microscope room for several research-groups working on human stemcells and developmental biology.

A microscope room for several research-groups working on human stemcells and developmental biology.

A dried and sealed 2-dimensional polycrylamide gel with the analyses of all proteins of the Yucca Gloriosa. The aim is to isolate the medicinal substance and the responsible genes. An attempt can be made then to genetically modify yeast or bacteria to produce this substance in large quantities to enable medicin-production on a large scale.

A dried and sealed 2-dimensional polycrylamide gel with the analyses of all proteins of the Yucca Gloriosa. The aim is to isolate the medicinal substance and the responsible genes. An attempt can be made then to genetically modify yeast or bacteria to produce this substance in large quantities to enable medicin-production on a large scale.

Corridor at a department for 'toxico-genetics', where research is being done on the effect of toxic and radioactive substances on genes and DNA. The doors are always open to allow laboratory workers to walk around with their hands full.

Corridor at a department for 'toxico-genetics', where research is being done on the effect of toxic and radioactive substances on genes and DNA. The doors are always open to allow laboratory workers to walk around with their hands full.

This company was founded by a former university professor. This company works on miniaturising and integrating lab proceses on so-called biochips. The goal is to try and capture a share in the emerging biotech-market, envisioned to be the next major economic-technological revolution.

This company was founded by a former university professor. This company works on miniaturising and integrating lab proceses on so-called biochips. The goal is to try and capture a share in the emerging biotech-market, envisioned to be the next major economic-technological revolution.

A well-plate with 12 cultures of human embryonic stemcells. They are known as hES-2 and were originally yielded from a week-old human embryo in a Singaporese IVF clinic. The stemcells were transferred to a base of cells of an embryonic mouse . After 10 days, one out of 10 stemcell-cultures are known to develop into human heart-cells. This can be easily checked under a microscope for they beat regularly, sometimes after applying a little electro-shock.

A well-plate with 12 cultures of human embryonic stemcells. They are known as hES-2 and were originally yielded from a week-old human embryo in a Singaporese IVF clinic. The stemcells were transferred to a base of cells of an embryonic mouse . After 10 days, one out of 10 stemcell-cultures are known to develop into human heart-cells. This can be easily checked under a microscope for they beat regularly, sometimes after applying a little electro-shock.

Doors to various research-groups at a university's faculty for molecular biology.

Doors to various research-groups at a university's faculty for molecular biology.

The buildings of the Pasteur Institute in the centre of Paris. Numerous groups do research on the structure of organic molecules and on applying the methods of molecular biology to the production of drugs.

The buildings of the Pasteur Institute in the centre of Paris. Numerous groups do research on the structure of organic molecules and on applying the methods of molecular biology to the production of drugs.

ITPL high-tech park in Whitefield, close to Bangalore, India. The biotech company Avesthagen shares this building with software-companies and call-centres. Avesthagen does research on transgenic crops and medicinal organic molecules.

ITPL high-tech park in Whitefield, close to Bangalore, India. The biotech company Avesthagen shares this building with software-companies and call-centres. Avesthagen does research on transgenic crops and medicinal organic molecules.

In the 'lightroom' of the company, research-staff are cutting off bits of leaves of transgenic tomatoplants for further experiments and breeding. The lightroom ensures controlled light-, humidity- and temperature conditions to allow comparison between experiments.

In the 'lightroom' of the company, research-staff are cutting off bits of leaves of transgenic tomatoplants for further experiments and breeding. The lightroom ensures controlled light-, humidity- and temperature conditions to allow comparison between experiments.

Stairway-cum-storage in the building of a fast growing life sciences department of a university.

Stairway-cum-storage in the building of a fast growing life sciences department of a university.

Laboratory workers check glycerol-plates, each one containing 384 bacteria-cultures of which the genetic material has been enriched with a segment of human DNA. At several locations worldwide, year after year, 1000's of these plates are produced and decoded each day to eventually decode the entire human genome.

Laboratory workers check glycerol-plates, each one containing 384 bacteria-cultures of which the genetic material has been enriched with a segment of human DNA. At several locations worldwide, year after year, 1000's of these plates are produced and decoded each day to eventually decode the entire human genome.

The desk of a university staff researcher.

The desk of a university staff researcher.

On display in the meeting-room are the framed magazine-articles covering the research of the startup-company and its founder.

On display in the meeting-room are the framed magazine-articles covering the research of the startup-company and its founder.

A bottle with embryo's of the African clawed frog in methanol. In embryonic stage 3 (4 cells) the embryo's were injected with morpholino and in stage 44, 74 hours after conception, they were fixed in methanol. By the injection in this early stage, the expression of gen x-delta-2 is disturbed, which causes the frog to develop strong malformations in the development of the brain. This is used for research on the development of brains in the earliest stages.

A bottle with embryo's of the African clawed frog in methanol. In embryonic stage 3 (4 cells) the embryo's were injected with morpholino and in stage 44, 74 hours after conception, they were fixed in methanol. By the injection in this early stage, the expression of gen x-delta-2 is disturbed, which causes the frog to develop strong malformations in the development of the brain. This is used for research on the development of brains in the earliest stages.

Genetically modified rice-plantlets in a growth-chamber. At a temperature of 26°C and with the right amount of light,  rice is being raised before transferring them to outdoors testfields.

Genetically modified rice-plantlets in a growth-chamber. At a temperature of 26°C and with the right amount of light, rice is being raised before transferring them to outdoors testfields.

A bottle with a colony of mutant fruitflies on a nutritive base. Fruifflies (Drosophila Melanogaster) are being used since the first days of genetic research. These standard-mutants have white instead of red eyes and can be ordered under code y;mus210C1,Cyo. They are to be used for reseaching the effects of radiation on organisms and on repair-genes.

A bottle with a colony of mutant fruitflies on a nutritive base. Fruifflies (Drosophila Melanogaster) are being used since the first days of genetic research. These standard-mutants have white instead of red eyes and can be ordered under code y;mus210C1,Cyo. They are to be used for reseaching the effects of radiation on organisms and on repair-genes.

A test tube with a dilution of pure DNA from E.Coli bacteria. From a large amount of bacteria, this pure DNA is obtained by standard processes. It is used for research on the function of and coherence between organic molecules within a cell.

A test tube with a dilution of pure DNA from E.Coli bacteria. From a large amount of bacteria, this pure DNA is obtained by standard processes. It is used for research on the function of and coherence between organic molecules within a cell.

The campus of the Beijing University in Northwestern Beijing. Several genetics research departments are housed in single story buildings among the trees behind the student dorm high-rises. Research is being done on transgenic foodcrops, human stemcells and bio-chips.

The campus of the Beijing University in Northwestern Beijing. Several genetics research departments are housed in single story buildings among the trees behind the student dorm high-rises. Research is being done on transgenic foodcrops, human stemcells and bio-chips.

A test field with genetically modified rice-plants. The green mesh is to prevent pollen from entering and leaving and contaminating the experiment or the environment.

A test field with genetically modified rice-plants. The green mesh is to prevent pollen from entering and leaving and contaminating the experiment or the environment.

A laboratory worker works on rice transformations at a flowtable. By bringing in genes from other organisms or other types of rice, researchers try to improve rice for cultivation.

A laboratory worker works on rice transformations at a flowtable. By bringing in genes from other organisms or other types of rice, researchers try to improve rice for cultivation.