CARLSBAD — Art lovers are now able to commission a portrait so unique nothing like it is exists in the world. That is because it incorporates deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, the genetic code that contains the secret to your individuality.
In June 2009, former research scientists Dean Sauer and Andy Bass formed Yonder Biology, a DNA art company based in Carlsbad. The two wanted to start a business and developed the concept while working at Sigma-Aldrich, a local life sciences company.
“We wanted to use what we knew and tools we used day-to-day,” Sauer said.
Their experience in life sciences also gave them the know-how to develop technologies for visualizing DNA.
“Pretty much anything that has DNA, we can visualize,” Bass said. “We like to think of this as democratizing art.”
After a customer places an order, Yonder Biology sends a sterile cotton swab that is used to scrape the inside of the cheek. The customer places the sample into a sealed plastic tube and returns it to Yonder in a stamped, self-address package.
Using the DNA, Bass combines science and Photoshop to create an original piece of art. In addition to customizing the color, Bass is able to incorporate a photo of a person, a scene or something else that is unique to the person such as their signature or favorite car.
Cost begins at $99 if mounted on photo paper, $349 on canvas and $399 on acrylic. Size ranges from 13-inches-by-19-inches to 36-inches-by-54-inches. Customers can add their signature to a portrait for $25. A second DNA image can be added for $69, three images for $199. DNA art is also available in T-shirts for $34 each.
While Yonder most commonly uses saliva to extract DNA, a hair sample can be used if, for example, a customer wants to create art with the DNA of a loved one who has passed away.
In addition to people, Yonder has developed methods to create art using the DNA of dogs and even beer.
“We’ve experimented with Stone, Lost Abbey and Avery,” Bass said. “We spun the beer to get the yeast pellet, which causes the yeast cells to separate out of the beer. Then we break open the yeast cells to extract and amplify the DNA to be able to visualize it at the next step of our process.”
In January Sauer and Bass were recognized for their innovativeness when San Diego Magazine named them among “50 People to Watch in 2011.” They ranked No. 1 of “10 People to Watch in North County.”
In addition to their own business, they are subcontracted to do DNA imaging by European companies who offer the service.
Currently, Yonder is in discussions to expand their product line to include accessories, apparel and footwear.
“We are trying to get investors so that we can move into retail and increase our marketing,” Bass said. “More than being an investment, it’s an opportunity to get into a cool, cutting-edge company.
The name Yonder Biology was inspired by a favorite expression of Bass’.
“I grew up in Alabama, so often say ‘Look over yonder,’” he explained. “Yonder also represents the horizon and the future.”
For more information, call (760) 583-4951 or visit www.yonderbiology.com.