LAS VEGAS — Biohackers have gained notoriety with provocative stunts like injecting themselves with CRISPR, an untested gene therapy, and an experimental herpes treatment. At a gathering of some 150 biohackers here on Saturday, nobody injected themselves on stage — though a few did get magnets implanted under their skin during the conference’s happy hour.
To be sure, the Biohack the Planet conference featured plenty of the brash talk and rage-against-the-machine attitude that has characterized a community built around bucking the conventions of mainstream science. But for the first time, the gathering — now in its fourth year — featured a hall of scientific posters and vendor booths, those hallmarks of any scientific conference. And on stage, leaders in the movement debated whether to embrace practices like publishing in journals, establishing their own peer-review system, and starting conversations with regulators. Sunday morning even featured a discussion about the possibility of creating a board of biohackers that would resemble the institutional review boards that sign off on traditional studies.