It wasn't long ago when we heard of the pioneering biohacker, Aaron Traywick; who injected himself with a clandestine herpes treatment in front of an audience full of peers and colleagues. It was one of the first and most widely publicized forms of biohacking we've seen to date – and despite serious questions over the treatment's effectiveness, the entire event went as planned.
But that was earlier in 2018. Now, approximately six months later, Aaron Traywick is dead. While a clear connection hasn't been made between the experimental and unapproved herpes treatment and Traywick's death, the coincidence is hard to ignore.
The Controversial Art of Biohacking
The event itself was meant to promote the idea of biohacking – a new and innovative movement that supports the ideal of self-experimentation. Although the discipline of biohacking has drawn attention from some highly intelligent researchers and scientists, the practice is treading a controversial line to say the least.
Moving rapidly after the event, the FDA was quick to warn the general public about the dangers of biohacking, stating: ''"FDA is aware that gene therapy products intended for self-administration and 'do it yourself' kits to produce gene therapies for self-administration are being made available to the public. Consumers are cautioned to make sure that any gene therapy they are considering has either been approved by FDA or is being studied under appropriate regulatory oversight."
In an interview with BuzzFeed dated from February 2018, Traywick tried to explain his viewpoint by making personal comparisons to the likes of Jonas Salk and Louis Pastor. He was also quoted as saying: "I do what has to be done for the science to move forward, and for other people to feel free enough to be able to seek interventions for themselves. I’m a biohacker in the Salk or Pasteurian sense."
He also spoke about the potential for mass production and general consumption of biohacking products by saying: "Everything we give to the public is a research compound that’s explicitly labeled ‘not for human consumption. If a member of the public looks at what we do on camera and looks at clinical research we make available publicly, and puts two and two together, that’s their right by law.We are following the FDA’s regulations and federal law 100%."''
Although a clandestine product, the experimental herpes treatment used by Traywick wasn't something that was just brewed overnight. It was the result of research performed by Ascendance, who made news in 2017 by pioneering an experimental HIV treatment.
The Future of Biohacking
Whether you support the biohacking movement or not, it's safe to say that incidents like this will only slowdown general acceptance of the already controversial treatment. Even if a clear connection cannot be made between the treatment and Traywick's death – which seem to be totally unrelated – opponents of biohacking will certainly spin this story to fit their agendas.
Another major factor in the future of biohacking is the FDA. While they've made it clear that it's illegal to sell homemade or clandestine treatments, like Ascendance's herpes and HIV solutions, they haven't played a proactive role in preventing the trend from continuing – yet.
Prominent Biohacker Found Dead
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