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Biohacking humans is not wise – Josiah Zayner’s “The Odin” - on Buzzfeed
Brian Hanley   Oct 26, 2017   Ethical Technology  

I was interviewed by phone before this SynBioBeta conference referenced in the Buzzfeed article, but they didn’t use what I said. I made it crystal clear I thought biohacking humans could be quite dangerous. I told them I stopped communicating technical information to unqualified people several years ago because I realized it encouraged people to do things they weren’t qualified to be involved with. I used some examples with the journalist.

Let me make some things clear relative to that Buzzfeed article.

1. The MIT Tech Review article by Antonio Regolado is gross misrepresentation. I have an active complaint in with MIT's legal department. Down to the kind of car I drive, he misrepresented or made up what he wanted to write. I told Regolado I was not in favor of biohacking.

2. I wrote an article on that claimed experiment of Bioviva in 2015 explaining why it was foolish at best.

3. Either Josiah Zayner is ignorant or he is deliberately misleading people. What he suggests cannot work as advertised.

4. Dana Carroll does not go far enough. Yes, infection is possible. However, screwing up can kill you from endotoxin. Humans are 3000 times more sensitive to endotoxin than a mouse is. The LD50 for an average adult human is only double the LD50 for a 25 gram mouse. It is very hard to get rid of in a prep. Very hard. For amateurs? Forget it. Your preps are deadly poison  in a significant dose – end of story. If you get in trouble, call me. I will do my best to instruct the physician how to save your life. I have studied how to deal with it in humans more than anybody else I know of. But I make no guarantees you will survive.

5. If someone dies because of an injection stemming from his kit, it won't matter if Mr. Zayner has those disclaimers on his box. Because it is quite clear that he intends to make people think they should try self-injection. He advocates it. He "demonstrates" it in front of crowds, and uses that to attract publicity so he can sell kits from his company. I have to wonder if he knows what he's telling people is baloney. And if that can be shown, (and it may be) then he can be charged with depraved indifference murder, and it will be a federal case because it's across state lines. If that can't be proven, it can be a manslaughter case, at least accessory. And if one of his biohackers injects someone else, and they die, it will be the same thing, with the ignorant biohacker on the hook. What will likely happen then, is that the Feds would give the guy who did the injecting a plea bargain for testimony against Mr. Zayner.

If you think I am exaggerating in #5, think again. I know someone who gave a subject something and didn't have an IND for it. This was done with best of intentions. That subject died 40 minutes later. That was plea bargained from murder 2 down to manslaughter. Job lost, house lost, spouse lost, life wrecked. I won't expose them by name, as that case is over and they have moved on. I looked at what was done and I don't think there was a connection. I think it was a coincidence. But that doesn't matter. Causality was inferred, and their qualifications for administering it were questionable.


Yes, there is a long history of scientists and physicians experimenting on themselves. 15 Nobel prizewinners did it. Hundreds of documented cases of prominent scientists doing it. I am sure there are thousands more such experiments by scientists that are not documented. There have been no documented deaths of scientists by self-experiment since 1928. But it is one thing for someone who really understands what they are doing to perform such experiments, or for qualified people to assist another qualified person. It is quite another thing for Joe programmer biohacker-hopeful to do that without really understanding it because some guy sold him a kit. 

Brian Hanley is the founder of Butterfly Sciences, a company developing gene therapies for aging. He has a range of papers in biosciences, economics, policy and terrorism, in addition to a recent text on radiation treatment. He obtained his PhD in microbiology with honors from UC Davis, has a bachelors degree in computer science, is a multiple entrepreneur and guest lectured for years to the MBA program at Santa Clara University.

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