DIY Biohackers Are Editing Genes in Garages and Kitchens

People who have been fucked by the system who are now trying ways to unfuck themselves There’s a lot of things that people think is like 15 years away that you’ll see in six to eight months

We’re in a world of exponentially advancing technology And exponentially advancing technology cannot survive the bottlenecks of bureaucracy Here in this downtown Oakland community center, over 100 citizen scientists gathered for the BioHack the Planet conference Many of them have set up labs in garages and don’t have any formal degree whatsoever The stigma of smart people and science is invented

Science works no matter who you are Instead of breaking into and manipulating computer systems like typical hackers, they’re focused on hacking living organisms with the hopes of curing illness and in some cases obtaining superhuman powers Their shared mission is to put this technology into the hands of as many people as possible People should be able to use all the technologies that science develops Right? It shouldn’t just be patented and given to companies or exclusively given to certain people

There’s a lot of innovation that people have no idea about And if you’re not way up in the middle of it there’s a lot of things that people think is like 15 years away that you’ll see in six to eight months And I mean it’s crazy These do-it-yourself biologists say that the democratization of science has given them the freedom to work on projects that are often ignored by larger institutions They’re using gene editing technologies like CRISPR to create personalized treatments for those suffering from rare diseases or cancer, experimenting with magnetic and vibrating implants to alter the sensory experience, reverse engineering pharmaceuticals like Epi-Pens so people can make their own medicine at home, and even creating glow in the dark beer

I think this is the most exciting time thus far in the history of the world to be alive Personalized medicine is going to change everything It’s going to rock the world because you can’t do a clinical trial on one person But medicine is starting to progress to the point where I can sequence your genome, I can sequence your cancer’s genome I can find the difference

I can develop a immunotherapy so that I can get your body to respond to your cancer specifically— not anybody else’s cancer— but I also can’t test that on anybody but you That’s going to be crazy and that's going to be awesome Earlier this year the Food and Drug Administration began placing restrictions on non-human genetic modifications declared that genetically edited animals must be classified as drugs This would give the agency broad authority over a number of do-it-yourself genetics tests and would require experiments involving animals to go through the same vetting process as a new drug I guess they couldn’t call them cosmetics and they couldn’t call them foods so they’re like dogs are drugs David Ishee, a canine breeder from Mississippi who is working on editing out genetic diseases in dogs, says the restrictions will mean only large companies can research genetic cures for animals

Everybody’s worried about what somebody could do with this technology and nobody seems to care about the damage that not doing it will cause Like these animals that are dying are dying anyway Like they’re going to die every day until we do something about it Regulation could undermine biohacking breakthroughs for humans as well And people are so afraid of how will this be used in the wrong way

You know what I’m afraid of? I’m afraid that all these people dying of fucking cancer and all these people who are dying of hunger aren’t going to get cured, aren’t going to get fed because we’re not allowing people to have access to this technology And it’s governed by a regulatory framework cobbled together in the mid-80s out of statutes that are now 70 and 80 years old that existed before we knew DNA was important The regulations don’t fit the reality and are not set up to try to distinguish between good uses and bad uses I’m a huge fan of deregulation because I believe in the inherent goodness of like capitalism and everything Like stuff doesn’t progress unless people do useful things with it, right? And people are naturally inclined to stop bad things that happen with it

We will be able to design life in ways that the 19th century taught us how to design buildings Life is going to become something that we make and remake and edit and reedit If we are genuine proponents of freedom, then people should have the liberty to use their bodies in whatever way they see fit and to undertake inquiry and think and explore however they see fit



Dave Asprey


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