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.

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