HOWTO set up a molecular biology lab for less than $1000

Dave Ng sez, "Whilst doing a bit of homework for a chapter I'm writing, I tried to cost out some equipment needed to set up a molecular biology lab. Although a lot of this would require the use of your credit card to buy enzymes and unused plastic ware (not too expensive this part), you would also need some routinely used equipment/hardware that would be on the expensive side.

"However, if you turn to eBay, you can get a lot of this equipment at bargain prices (without even needing to bid). Anyway, a lot of the common equipment needed , as purchased through eBay, would total to less than $1000 (not including shipping that is)."

Using eBay to set up a molecular biology lab: costs less than $1000! (Thanks, Dave!)


  1. If anyone is seriously interested in doing this, I have all of the equipment needed, including a 36” hood in like-new condition. I assembled my own lab doing the ebay method and don’t need it any more. The hood was the only thing we bought new.

    Send me an email: kfischer &@ gmail *& com

  2. Wow…memories. I used to use a cycler just like the PE one there. Only thing more old-school than that thing is three water baths and a tube rack (yes, hyperbole. Deal with it).

    Funny how some of the stuff just hasn’t changed, though. The centrifuge and cycler are damn near antiques; I haven’t seen either of those in over a decade. But the pipettes, gel box, water bath heater, illuminator and incubator are pretty much the same. In fact, those are the same pipettes I use in the hood.

  3. Wouldn’t you also want an autoclave? Is there a way to grow up plasmids easier than with E. coli?

  4. This is really interesting. Lately I’ve been seeing lots of stuff on Biohacking…There are a couple of speaches over at TED and hackaday has a video of the MIT guy asking computer hackers for help to bring down the cost of “biohacking.” I’m really psyched about this stuff. It could be the next thing to get into!

  5. When our thermocycler died beyond repair– our lab director pulled it apart and did his best to fix it, but alas, ’twas not to be– we ended up with two, one new, one from Ebay. I really like the idea of someone having a molec lab in her kitchen (okay, better to put it in a second kitchen. Or eat out a lot).

  6. The journal/mag “Biotechniques” (
    used to have a lot of DIY stuff for building lab equipment, including how to make your own gel electrophoresis apparatus. They may still, but I’m no longer in the field, and don’t think I could talk my wife into starting a lab in the laundry room.

  7. Laundry room is right! Kitchen’s not cool, that’s for food. Fortunately, my wife signed off on the laundry room…

    @sednaboo: autoclave == pressure cooker, pretty much. For growing plasmids, I think E coli is easiest, and that’s why everyone does it that way.

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