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OAKLAND, Calif. — A few weeks ago, the prominent biohacker Josiah Zayner took to Instagram to break some news: He had received a letter from the California Department of Consumer Affairs saying that officials were investigating him. The reason? A complaint had been made alleging that he had been practicing medicine without a license.

Zayner runs the ODIN, a company here that sells equipment for do-it-yourself science, including a $159 DIY CRISPR kit. He got his own biotech training the conventional way — he has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and biophysics from the University of Chicago — but he’s since become a leader in the biohacking community.


He’s made his name with a series of self-experiments: One time he gave himself a fecal transplant in a hotel room. Another time he tried to genetically engineer cells in the skin on his hand so they would glow. Then, another time, at a synthetic biology industry conference, he CRISPR’d himself up on stage in front of an audience.

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  • For the dis-infrachised, for the ones that pray for a cure. For the ones that will be the “Ginny-pig” so a break thru will happen-death happens to all-death sooner than latter when someone wants to see daughter get married, graduate from high school or PHD program they want to LIVE for that moment-don’t take that moment from them-try-try-try again just like the Manhattan project. If you do nothing-nothing happens but each failure in a way is a success because try something else-as Marines motto goes: Never Give Up.

  • What really is there to gain from giving a lot of attention to a hacker who ought to be best ignored ? Is this a STAT popularity ploy? Are readers to expect that STAT will next also succumb to low-level ignorant aggression-festering tweets? Drop this nonsense, and ignore the hacker as the illegal operator that he is.

  • You keep giving credit to this guy, whom if anything has proven to be a very lousy biohacker. In fact, I don’t think any of his own biohacks has amounted to anything. And indeed, makes me question how he got a PhD with such poor skills, and sketchy scientific competence

  • Sure, people will try to reverse engineer gene therapy. But teaching people how to do it is another thing. If the profit drops, pharmaceutical companies will stop doing research in this area, then new treatment won’t be developed. That’s why IP exists, that’s why the system allows them to charge a ridiculous fee for a limited time. So there is enough incentive to continue research, and to cover the lost when it didn’t work (which happens more often than not).

    • Without going into the merit of biohacking, the recurrent connection of high prices to research is just a blatant falsity. The budget for research of pharma companies is just a few percent of the overall expenses. Besides, almost the totality of advanced immunotherapies are licensed from academic institutions, whose research is largely funded by taxpayers money.
      If anything, companies are spending relatively a lot in Development of a therapy. A very loose term covering everything, from repeating over and over experiments to ensure they are robust and reproducible, overpaying agencies to handle clinical trials, to bribing opinion leaders and physicians.

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