Yonder Biology was founded in 2009 by Dean Sauer and Andy Bass.  Yonder blended pop culture, science and art to inspire fascination with biology.  The company’s products included personalized DNA Art, Whole Genome Visualization and Living Art.  Yonder's DNA Art was featured in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and in homes and offices around the world.

DNA Art (2009 - 2013) //

DNA Portraits //


DNA is a common thread of all life forms.  Yonder focused on this aspect of biology and developed DNA art pieces to showcase one’s individuality.


Yonder’s DNA portraits combined unique portions of one’s genome (short tandem repeats) and gel electrophoresis to portray a DNA ‘banding pattern’ that was representative of the individual.

ACGT //


As DNA sequencing technologies advanced and became more affordable, Yonder explored DNA code as an artistic representation of the individual.  Andy was inspired by Ryoji Ikeda’s V≠L work seeing A’s, C’s, G’s and T’s in place of Ikeda’s numerals.


The first ACGT portrait was developed using a portion of the BRCA gene sequence (using 12,000 nucleotides printed in 12 point font on a 26”x18” canvas).


During an afternoon exploring art galleries in LA, Dean and Andy took a brown derby break at Cole’s.  After drinking too many brown derbies, Dean had an idea to print the entire human genome (all 3 billion nucleotides).  Based on the size of the original 26x18 canvas, the entire genome would require 10 miles of canvas to print a haploid human genome in it’s entirety. 


Dean and Andy realized this was not an easy feat nor environmentally sound.  So they enlisted the help of Jason Neighbors to write code to display an entire human genome on Yonder’s website.  This was the first iteration of A Complete Genome in Time (ACGT).  ACGT streamed 100 nucleotides per second and required one year (365 days) to read through all 3 billion letters of the human genome.


On May 22, 2012, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) announced they would host a Genomics Exhibit to educate their seven million annual visitors about the human genome.  Further, the exhibit celebrated the tenth anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project and the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA double helix.


Determined to have Yonder’s work represented in this major exhibition about DNA, Andy coordinated a meeting with the NMNH curators.  Soon after, Dean and Andy were on an airplane to Washington DC to present their work — and the rest is history.  Yonder’s ACGT was commission by the Smithsonian for the show.  Yonder partnered with artist/developer/biologist Max Nanis to create a new interpretation of ACGT that opened to the public on June 10th, 2013 as part of Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code.

BRCA2 //


Yonder’s Smithsonian collaboration with Max Nanis led to further cooperation to produce BRCA2.  Max developed an algorithm to model fluorescent radioactive emission output of DNA into a visually quantifiable drawing.  The patterns and forms of the drawing conveyed the DNA sequence information stored in the gene in a manner that becomes legible to even an untrained eye (without any A, C, G or T letters being printed).  Get your hands on the limited edition print.

Living Art (2011 - 2013) //

In April 2011, Dean and Andy had a conversation with someone who said, “Guys, your DNA canvases are cool but what does a living canvas look like?”  This question propelled them to conceptualize how living organisms might be used in art and design.  During the summer of 2011, Dean and Andy conceived a handful of ideas using bacteria and yeast but none materialized into products. 


In late September 2011, San Diego’s beaches were glowing blue thanks to an algal bloom, also known as a red tide (due to the brownish-red color of the organisms).  It was inspiring to be in the presence of ocean life producing light.  The timing of this phenomenal occurrence in their own backyard was instrumental to the future direction of Yonder. 


By late October, Andy sought to create a living light display using dinoflagellates — the light producing organism seen in the red tide.  On November 17, 2011, Andy ordered a living culture of dinoflagellates.  During early prototyping, the living light display transformed into a bio light concept — the objective was to design a light powered by dinos (short for dinoflagellates).  Dean and Andy photographed the first iteration of the Bio Light on May 27, 2012. 


















The Bio Light was fantastic as an art installation but not practical as a product at the time.  For instance, Andy spent the previous six months growing enough dinos for the Bio Light to work — which only produced 30 seconds of luminescence.  However, the attachment that Andy developed in caring for the dinos over this six month period resonated deeply. 


This care aspect pointed Andy back to an earlier product concept — dinos in a clear figurine or toy.  Everyone who experienced the dinos were instantly drawn to their luminescence.  They evoked questions and enthusiasm.  These experiences led to an inflection point for a totally new genre of products.  Why not make a biological toy that you care for like a pet?


To reinforce the idea further, Dean ‘babysat’ the dinos one weekend while Andy was out of town. His children enjoyed playing with the dinoflagellates and were asking lots of questions.  Dean saw the educational potential of such a living toy first hand.  With visions aligned, Yonder Biology set out to produce a living, glowing toy.


Coincidentally, there was a group in San Francisco that were also ‘playing’ with dinoflagellates within their DIYbio community.  They were equally fascinated with the dinoflagellates and had the same nickname of dinos for their bioluminescent cultures.  They encouraged their community to bring a glass jar to take some ‘pet dinos’ home.  The nick name and affection that the single-celled dinos inspired among multiple, unconnected groups led to the name for Yonder’s living toy — the Dino Pet.


Andy’s intrigue with Frank Kozik’s Labbit and Tristan Eaton’s Dunny characters at Kidrobot inspired him to design the Dino Pet with similar smooth lines.  On September 8, 2012, almost a year after San Diego’s red tide, the Dino Pet’s original, tail-less form was born. 


Paul Taylor, a 3D artist/designer, delivered a 3D rendered image of the Dino Pet almost one month later on October 11, 2012.  The first physical form of the Dino Pet was CNC cut by Zach Horn on November 13, 2012.


As the Dino Pet concept took shape, Dean and Andy began learning about culturing methods to grow dinoflagellates.  In parallel, Yonder struggled to raise financing for the idea.  Investors failed to see the business opportunity despite the Dino Pet renders, business plan proposals and enthusiasm for the idea.


In order to convey the beauty of bioluminescence to prospective investors, Andy pioneered low light filming techniques to capture the glowing dinoflagellates on video in early 2013.  By mid-April the compelling footage of bioluminescence was mounting.  Dean and Andy decided to try Kickstarter to crowd fund the production of the Dino Pet. 


Yonder Biology launched the Dino Pet Kickstarter campaign on August 13, 2013.  The goal was to raise $50,000 in 32 days.  Yonder raised $50K in 8 days and ultimately, $168,517 by the end of the campaign.


On October 1, 2013, Dean and Andy sold Yonder Biology to Intrexon Corporation and jointly founded a new living art company called Biological & Popular Culture, Inc. — biopop.com

Dino Pet //