Biohacking is described as citizen or do-it-yourself biology. This can mean individuals changing their bodies using technology, taking dietary supplements, or increasing their amount of exercise. However, some have taken it to the next level and are incorporating technology or cellular modification based approaches to health. This was the case for Josiah Zayner, a “biohacker” who livestreamed himself injecting DNA for the genetic engineering tool CRISPR directly into his arm. Biohacking is an exciting field because it is not heavily regulated by the FDA, but this also means more risks involved for individuals who take part in it.
The Values of Biohacking
Biohacking offers people the chance to explore cybernetics and play with the intersections between technology and physiology. Biohacking also draws many to the field by the control it gives them over their personal data. Amid privacy disputes between big corporations and the public, biohacking offers an alternative way for the public to monitor and control their personal data. This method of control is conducted by the individual–making it ideal for people concerned about their privacy.
Biohacking also allows for open source medicine, in which anybody can contribute to the field of medicine not just scientists and researchers who have received adequate funding. This allows for people to develop their own medicines without having to rely solely on the pharmaceutical industry.
Who is Doing it?
Biohacking experiments have ranged from the practical to the absurd. Biohackers have modified insulin pumps so the pump will deliver a specific amount of insulin to the body, are attempting to identify negligent pet owners who don’t pick up after their pet by scanning the pet’s feces, and injecting untested experimental gene therapies into their bodies. Well-educated professionals appear to be the largest demographic to perform these experiments, and most biohackers have received college degrees. Most people performing these experiments are professional scientists, meaning that they are more likely to experiment on their bodies in a safe and controlled environment.
The Bayh-Dole Act
It is important to consider the various implications of biohacking before beginning to experiment. If you have an employment agreement, for instance, your scientific findings may end up being the property of your employer. Government-funded professionals should also be wary. The Bayh-Dole Act permits the government to use “march-in rights” to use patented products in a way that they deem appropriate.
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I also host a podcast called DarshanTalks, a show that discusses newsworthy FDA issues and how they apply to bringing a product to market – and keeping it there. From patient centricity in clinical trials to the government shutdown to CRISPR and bioethics to why big data is doomed to fail in healthcare, we’ve got quite the list of topics to review! Listen to the podcast on Google Podcasts or on Apple Podcasts.