DIY Gene Therapy

(Photo Credit: Josiah Zayner, The ODIN)

A couple of DIY biohackers have been really “sticking it to the man” of late and by that, I mean poking themselves with needles full of DNA modifying serums.  

Last week, despite warnings from the federal government about do-it-yourself gene therapy, two companies have stated they’ll continue to offer DNA-altering materials to the public.

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The companies, The Odin and Ascendance Biomedical, both recently posted videos online of people self-administering DNA molecules their labs had produced.

Now according to Gizmodo, the largest organisation of scientists who work in gene and cell therapy have come out against DIY gene therapies. A statement from the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy comes on the heels of a stern warning against DIY gene therapy from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For years, when it came to biohacking, regulators and establishment science have mainly looked the other way. That seems to be changing.

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“As the largest professional society representing gene and cell therapy in the world, ASGCT does not support the practice of unregulated gene therapies because such procedures are potentially dangerous and highly unlikely to provide therapeutic benefit,” the organisation said in its statement.

The statement, the organisation said in an email to Gizmodo among them the story of a well-known bio-hacker injecting himself with the gene-editing tool CRISPR at a conference and a 27-year-old software engineer administering an untested HIV therapy while live streaming on Facebook.

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Seemingly in response to those two public performances, the FDA issued a statement noting that selling supplies intended for DIY gene therapy is illegal and actually performing it is unsafe.

The ASGCT followed suit, arguing that DIY attempts at gene therapy are simply unsafe.

“ASGCT understands and profoundly sympathises with the desperation that patients can feel when confronted with dire clinical prognoses,” the statement read. “However, ASGCT strongly discourages individuals from administering or seeking out unregulated or ‘do-it-yourself’ gene therapies. The field of gene therapy has been developing for more than 30 years with the goal of improving the quality of life of patients with serious diseases through proven, safe, and effective treatments derived from rigorous scientific and clinical research.”

Neither the FDA nor a consortium of scientists seem likely to dissuade those on the frontline of do-it-yourself science.

When asked about the statement, Josiah Zayner, the guy who injected himself with CRISPR at a conference, said the ASGCT’s statement didn’t even seem like that stern of a warning.

“It didn’t outright condemn the stuff people were doing,” he stated.