Injecting yourself with an unregulated, highly experimental treatment with little scientific evidence to back it up sounds like a very, very bad idea, but that's exactly what biotech company CEO Aaron Traywick did at a conference in Austin, Texas, earlier this month. Traywick took to the stage, proceeded to pull down his pants, and plunged a needle loaded with his "cure" for herpes straight into his thigh. One week later, he made headlines again – this time for changing the locks to his lab and barricading himself inside it for several hours.
Now, Josiah Zayner – who you may remember as the first person to publically edit their own DNA – says things have gone too far, even admitting that he regrets injecting himself with CRISPR on a live stream in an interview with The Atlantic.
“Honestly, I kind of blame myself,” he said.
In November, Zayner, the self-described “mad pirate-king of biotech”, used CRISPR to encourage muscle growth. As of yet, he hasn't developed Hulk-like super strength but that was never his intention.
“I see myself as a scientist but also a social activist with some of the experiments I’ve done. Like, how can I do this experiment from a scientific way but also to make people think?” he explained.
Both Zayner and Traywick are part of a new wave of biohackers (or garage geneticists) attempting to bypass the heavy regulation characteristic of more traditional organizations in order to speed up advances in academic and medical science by testing treatments on themselves – though, as the FDA has warned, doing so can be extremely risky.
But Zayner doesn't like the direction in which the movement is heading.
“What it’s turned into now, people view it as a way to get press and get publicity and get famous. And people are going to get hurt,” he added.
In the wake of Traywick’s controversial stunt, Zayner posted a statement on Facebook condemning the experiment and highlighting the dangers of sidestepping medical and scientific experts, while also acknowledging the role his actions may have played.
“Looking at my actions in the past, which unfortunately did include a public injection in a semi-ridiculous manner, I want to apologize, in that I could have inspired people to think I was doing things on a whim when I was not,” he wrote.
“All of this is not to say I am against self-experimentation or treatment… What I am against are biohackers and sketchy companies misleading people into believing they have created cures for diseases or that cures could be created so easily.”
[H/T: The Atlantic]