Promising genetic "biohacker" Josiah Zayner is under investigation by California state officials
Zayner has a background in biophysics and runs a company called The Odin, which sells do-it-yourself genetic engineering kits and other equipment intended for use outside of scientific laboratories.
The human that Zayner's products are best known for trying to modify is Zayner himself. In fact, the Brazen CEO has a long history of self-experimentation. In 201
but he is perhaps best-known for an alcohol-fueled stunt he livestreamed in October 2017. Between swigs of scotch, he himself describes what the DNA for the genetic engineering tool CRISPR. Zayner's myostatin gene, which is involved with muscle-growth regulation before and after birth. Disabling the gene could leave him with beefy muscle growth.
But Zayner admitted-and outside experts agreed-that the experiment was unlikely to work. It's unclear if the genetic material made its way into Zayner's cells and how, how many and what effect.
In an interview with Buzzfeed directly after the October 2017 muscle-editing stunt, Zayner told the outlet, "I want to live in a world where people get drunk and instead of giving them tattoos, they're like, 'I'm drunk, I'm going to CRISPR myself.' "
But by February of 2018, he took a sober stance. Other biohackers had started performing similar self-injection stunts, and Zayner expressed regret. "Honestly, I kind of blame myself," he told The Atlantic. "There's no doubt in my mind that somebody is going to end up hurting eventually," he said. Still, Zayner has continued to sell his DIY Genetic Engineering Kits.
The biohacking community is not alone in taking notice of Zayner's antics, however. Weeks after his CRISPR injection, the Food and Drug Administration weighed in, calling genetic-editing kits illegal. (Zayner had a run-in with the FDA back in 2016, too, for selling kits to brew glow-in-the-dark alcoholic beverages). In a notice about the human gene-editing kits, the FDA wrote:
FDA is aware that gene-therapy products intended for self-administration and "do-it-yourself" kits to produce gene therapies for self-administration are being made available to the public. The sale of these products is against the law.
Now, officials at Zayner's home state of California have so called notice. According to a May 8, 2019, Zayner wrote: Zayner is a practicing medical practitioner without a license. The investigators are "now at the point in our review where we would like to discuss this matter with you," it read. They requested an interview and noted, "We want to discuss your business."
On the social media site, Zayner responded, saying that the investigation stemmed from his "genetic self-experimentation" for the purpose of showing people how to access publicly available knowledge. " He continued:
The truth is that I have never given anyone anything to inject or use, or anyone claiming to treat a disease, and never claim to provide any treatments or treatments.
The fmd up part of that is so many people are dying because of the FDA and government refuses to allow people access to cutting-edge treatments or in some cases even basic healthcare. Yet I am the one with jail.
Practicing medicine without a valid license in California can be used either as a misdemeanor or a felony, with penalties up to a $ 10,000 fine and three years in jail.
Zayner concluded on Twitter: " Yeah, I need to find a lawyer ." He did not respond to Ars' request for comment.