Biohackers Revolt as CEO Locks Himself In Lab
February 12, 2018 7:51 PM   Subscribe

 
I just finished Blood Music by Greg Bear

Experimentally injecting yourself doesn't always end up as planned.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:00 PM on February 12 [22 favorites]


Did he give himself herpes first or was he fortunate enough to already have herpes
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:11 PM on February 12 [40 favorites]


Blood Music is a fantastically weird book, and I highly recommend it.
posted by loquacious at 8:13 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


or was he fortunate enough to already have herpes

If your situation would be improved by having the herp, you know you have made some bad life decisions.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:15 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Well you wouldn't give yourself the experimental herpes cure without having herpes

that would be stupid
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:16 PM on February 12 [29 favorites]


Blood Music felt a little dated at points when I finally read it a couple of years ago, but yeah, it's got that Greg Bear going for broke weird hard SF thing, and it's really good.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:17 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Slow...clap?
posted by Dr. Twist at 8:17 PM on February 12 [38 favorites]


People are injecting themselves with homemade gene therapy?

⊙_⊙
posted by fshgrl at 8:31 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


At least it wasn't lupus.
posted by Samizdata at 8:34 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


From the article linked within the article, they were worried about finding antibodies to the double stranded DNA after injection.

Maybe it's been far, far too long since I've taken the classes for my degree but I'm 99% sure that naked dsDNA lasts for less than a minute outside the nucleus of a cell but inside the human body.

While I think the vaccine/cure is probably harmless, what are the odds that a fly-by-night biohacker space has sterile fill/finish procedures and bioburden/toxicity testing of the final product?

A nasty infection of whatever's floating about in their lab space is probably in the cards.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:43 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Will this herpes treatment cause the end of the world?
posted by liet at 8:46 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


It's never lupus.
posted by sourcequench at 8:50 PM on February 12 [14 favorites]


So... man who may or may not be nuts decides to inject himself with something definitely nuts, (and incredibly unscientific!) then starts acting 100% nuts. man this 28 days later sequel is really shaping up!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:01 PM on February 12 [18 favorites]


From the article linked within the article, they were worried about finding antibodies to the double stranded DNA after injection.

Where's the reference to this? I'm having trouble finding it and am curious. Extracellular dsDNA is a thing, we have immune receptors (tlr9 i think) and diagnostic tests (including for lupus-like diseases!) that rely on that.
posted by mark k at 9:09 PM on February 12


Even my six-year-old knows this is how you get superpowers: poorly controlled science experiments.
posted by bigbigdog at 9:28 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


SO would he be more of a Lizard? more so than Barry Flash- I think lightning was involved along with science. Oh I know- He's like the fantastic four, if Reed Richards injected himself with nonsense instead of flew up to cosmic rays!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:10 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


What a dumbfuck. Herpes is the M1 Abrams tank of viruses, with a large genome, an array of immune-evading proteins, and has defeated a generation of real virologists working at actual companies. IT HIDES IN YOUR NEURONS AND GANGLIA SPECIFICALLY TO EVADE YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM. If you can convince your immune system to attack its hiding places, you will likely end up causing neurological problems.

I cannot find a map of his vaccine construct nor an explanation of what he claims is different about this approach.
posted by benzenedream at 10:28 PM on February 12 [39 favorites]


if he had just remembered to eat the childs who are full of ADAM instead of fighting with the splicers this would not have happened
posted by poffin boffin at 11:00 PM on February 12 [23 favorites]


also you get a trophy if you eat all the childs
posted by poffin boffin at 11:02 PM on February 12 [17 favorites]


There was even a physical wrestling match over the keys ... between Traywick and another biohacker ... (“It was like watching a scene from Rushmore,”...)
Reading this a small theatrical voice in my head went, ‘aaaaaand scene!’ And I decided yes, right now in my life that’s all I need to know about this.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:03 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Some people said such stunts and unsupported claims gave the DIY science community a bad name.

I can assure you my opinion of the DIY science community is entirely unaffected.
posted by Segundus at 11:17 PM on February 12 [34 favorites]


Did he give himself herpes first or was he fortunate enough to already have herpes

Like a better funded StinkyFeet project!
posted by aubilenon at 12:41 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Wow, on a meta level, as I was reading the article:
1. I looked at the picture and thought - hey, he looks a bit like a Wes Anderson character.
2. Hey, this would make a good premise for a Wes Anderson film.
3. It was like watching a scene from Rushmore: somebody else noticed this too!
4. I hope the film gets made after Dog Isle.
posted by Laotic at 2:01 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]




On the one hand, yes, the foolery of "I, with little training, know more than people with lots of research training because leet haxxorz" is pretty noticeable, and this is a great argument for a research infrastructure.

On the other, consider the scamming and tussling! Many of these people are so spoiled! Like toddliers, but with more lies! If you're so leet, for pete's sake, why are you being stymied by the same kinds of problems that beset a poorly run group house? If you can't hack the "how do we solve entirely routine interpersonal problems" piece, I don't think you're ready for doing big science.

And, since we're already in the science fictional, let's have a third hand: If by some miracle one of these people did cure HIV, it would not be public science. And these dudes are all Martin Shreklis in embryo - what do you think they'd do with a cure for a genuinely dangerous disease?

I'm the first to admit that the NIH infrastructure is flawed, and even if it were restored to its former levels of funding it would still be beset by all kinds of problems of planning and so on, but once you do the science it belongs to everyone. If you want genuinely open science, being all "some bros are going to do it, and they can share whatever they like or not, buyer beware" doesn't hold a candle to "research is going to be done in actual labs, and when it's published it's published to uniform standards and everyone can see and use it".
posted by Frowner at 4:56 AM on February 13 [16 favorites]


Okay this is worse than anti-vaxxers.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:37 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Ha! From the comments:
Man, fuck these people. A team of four (?) think they can ‘bio hack’ to a cure for something that brighter minds and billions of dollars have been working on for decades. This shit is barely separated from the lines of Theranos. Things aren’t easy, movies are fake, the FDA exists for a reason and science is fucking hard.
posted by Don Pepino at 5:42 AM on February 13 [18 favorites]


If you can't hack the "how do we solve entirely routine interpersonal problems" piece, I don't think you're ready for doing big science.

I think the underlying belief is that the only people who have a chance of doing the impossible are those who have no interpersonal skills. This concept probably has a cute name in TV Tropes.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:08 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


Man, fuck these people. A team of four (?) think they can ‘bio hack’ to a cure for something that brighter minds and billions of dollars have been working on for decades. This shit is barely separated from the lines of Theranos. Things aren’t easy, movies are fake, the FDA exists for a reason and science is fucking hard.

*reads article* oh wow so weird and unexpected that this insanely arrogant group appears to be comprised entirely of white men.
posted by saladin at 6:09 AM on February 13 [16 favorites]


Well, it’s not like naming your company “Ascendance Biomedical” would imply that you have ambitions we typically associate with movie supervillains.

But even if movie villains are stupid enough to reveal all their plans to anybody who asks, they’re at least smart enough to use “volunteers” as the first round of test subjects for their experiments. And in the libertarian universe the only difference between a victim and a volunteer is the wording of the contract.
posted by ardgedee at 6:31 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


FWIW, there is a long history of legitimate researchers testing on themselves. Not just the famous ulcer guy but a generation or two ago a fair number of chemists would supposedly try an early formulation of their drug to help de-risk the first clinical trial.

Traywick seems crazy and Roberts foolhardy but the self dosing is the least of it.
posted by mark k at 7:31 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I can't work out why these idiot boys think they're clever at all
posted by glasseyes at 7:53 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Wow, on a meta level, as I was reading the article:
1. I looked at the picture and thought - hey, he looks a bit like a Wes Anderson character.
2. Hey, this would make a good premise for a Wes Anderson film.
3. It was like watching a scene from Rushmore: somebody else noticed this too!
4. I hope the film gets made after Dog Isle.


Better yet, let's hope Wes Anderson makes a body horror movie under the tutelage of David Cronenberg.
posted by jonp72 at 8:28 AM on February 13


Still more professional than Theranos.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:30 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


In re research: It so happens that I have spent most of my career in research environments, and very, very few people really lack interpersonal skills. There's a lot of scope for weirdness, at least in a non-profit setting, but the whole "I am going to have a tantrum and lock myself in a room" deal isn't that common. The people who "have no interpersonal skills" are, IME, almost all white straight male late career researchers with lots of money, and I've observed that "not having social skills" seems to be a strategy - a kind of social skill! - at least as often as a genuine lack.

Actually, having plenty of funding is a real test of character - it reveals the inner jerk or the inner sweetheart very clearly, and IME there are at least as many sweethearts as jerks.

But as a broad generality, researchers I have known tend to have more interpersonal skills than the average person, not fewer - that's how you do collaborative work, get funding, cozen your chair into giving you things, keep staff around when you can't pay them that much, etc.

Also, everyone who comes from a marginalized background has fifty million social skills because they have to - you don't climb the ladder as a woman or a BIPOC or someone from a first generation college background by stamping your foot and implying other people are stupid and inferior.
posted by Frowner at 9:33 AM on February 13 [20 favorites]


Wait. Is Traywick still barricaded inside the lab? How are they going to leave us hanging like this? I think I read this article three times trying to see if I just missed this detail or not but I really don't think they tell us.
posted by mhum at 9:47 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


FWIW, there is a long history of legitimate researchers testing on themselves. Not just the famous ulcer guy but a generation or two ago a fair number of chemists would supposedly try an early formulation of their drug to help de-risk the first clinical trial.

Like this arousing tale coincidentally posted on the green this morning! (warning: mildly NSFW academic editorial)
posted by aerobic at 10:01 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I was part of this conference whose delegates ultimately published this paper about the ethics of biotechnology. One of the concerns we were asked to address was hobby scientists using CRISPR and how to communicate bioethics to those audiences. I was skeptical of this whole hobbyist thing to begin with. I guess it's more real than I thought, and I'm now more worried about them killing themselves or other people with bad science than I was before.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:04 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Florida Man Biotechnology.
posted by ardgedee at 10:17 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


Well, I don't know what to say except maybe he just needed a little more polish and better neighbors where he grew up, I'm thinking Theranos. I guess PT Barnum was right.
posted by Pembquist at 11:10 AM on February 13


"Okay this is worse than anti-vaxxers."

I don't know, the body count is certainly lower.
posted by el io at 11:34 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Even my six-year-old knows this is how you get superpowers: poorly controlled science experiments.

No no, this is how you get super villains. When he finally comes out of that lab he'll be 12 feet tall, green and able to shoot lasers from his eyes. Or herpes maybe. This stuff is unpredictable.

Frowner is absolutely correct t, these guys are all about themselves and not the work and that's not welcome in most research groups. It's a big pita to deal with.
posted by fshgrl at 2:13 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


In October, the company encouraged Roberts to inject himself with an untested gene therapy that Ascendance claimed was capable of curing his HIV. That test was live-streamed on Facebook.

):
posted by latkes at 6:52 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


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