Aaron Traywick, the biohacker who injected himself with a homemade herpes therapy in front of a live audience, was found dead at a public spa on Sunday.
The 28-year-old CEO of biohacking startup Ascendance Biomedical was found dead in a floatation tank, a sensory deprivation water pod at SOULEX Float Spa in Washington DC on April 29, according to a police statement given to IFLScience. The Metropolitan Police Department in DC are still investigating the death, but they have not found any evidence to suggest foul play.
Traywick had not been in contact with some of his colleagues at Ascendance Biomedical following disagreements about the company’s direction.
“We all lost touch with him. It was radio silence,” Andreas Stuermer, a researcher at Traywick’s company, told VICE News. “It was more than four weeks ago."
Traywick shot into the limelight this year after he injected himself with an unregulated herpes gene therapy during a live-streamed biohacking conference in Texas. Along with promoting a DIY regulation-flouting approach to biomedical research, the stunt was to show off the team’s purported gene therapy for herpes. Traywick’s company was also behind the case of Tristan Roberts, an HIV-positive man who injected himself with an untested gene therapy treatment it claimed was capable of treating HIV.
“Jonas Salk, Louis Pasteur, the birth of modern medicine and clinical research is owed to the fact that these individuals chose themselves and their families to do self-experimentation on,” Traywick said at the self-injecting seminar in February.
“You would not be here today without self-experimentation.”
Needless to say, the whole thing was controversial. Following Traywick’s stunt, the FDA released a statement condemning DIY gene therapy treatments, claiming they have a high risk of being dangerous. He had also recently brought forward libel and slander lawsuits against Gizmodo Media and fellow-biohacker Josiah Zayner, claiming they had made false statements about him and the company. The suit was dismissed last month.
Writing in a Facebook post, Josiah Zayner described his relationship with Traywick as “pretty strange” yet noted his work was “inspiring, crazy and probably ill-advised, but inspiring.”
“One thing Aaron will probably be remembered for is trying to push gene therapy technology into the public's hands,” he added.
“Really sad to see Aaron go so soon.”