Thursday, July 14, 2016

The New Guinea Pigs

They are the brave heroes of $ociety that saunter forth....

"Biotech execs in search of human guinea pigs find eager subjects: themselves" by Elizabeth Preston, July 7, 2016

Thus you should have no problem with them using you as one.

When physicist Alex Zhavoronkov looked in the mirror one day and saw alarming swelling around his eyes, he guessed it was an allergic reaction to a drug he’d taken. But he couldn’t just ring up his doctor and ask — the drug was one his own company was developing, and he was its first guinea pig.

As CEO of biotech company Insilico Medicine, Zhavoronkov routinely subjects himself to his own medicine. Self-experimentation lets him quickly see whether lab predictions hold true in a human subject, or whether there are any safety issues — say, a potential allergy. (He now thinks the swelling may have been caused by a drug interaction with some tomato juice he drank.) And he thinks it has a place in the scientific literature, too: He plans to launch a journal of self-experimentation later this year. 

I think it's safe to assume that none have died; otherwise, it would have been front-page news. Wouldn't it?

Such experiments are one of medicine’s oldest traditions. Many a vaccine or poison was first tested on its developer; most of the earliest work on psychedelic drugs was conducted by intrepid scientists tripping in the name of research.

They were government labs and the CIA tested the stuff on its own before they used it to diffuse the antiwar and other protests in the late '60s. According to the literature (and TV for crimes sake), they wanted to develop a programmed assassin but instead got people with a pox on both your houses view regarding the whole Cold War patrioti$m bit -- but those are the old guinea pigs.

As medicine has progressed, however, self-experimentation has become less popular in academic labs, to be taken up instead by a growing biotech industry.

Those changes have given rise to a new breed of self-tester: the guinea pig CEO.

I've always said you first; however, I never committed to following.

The medical annals are filled with self-experiments, some more successful than others. To try to prove that Vibrio cholerae didn’t cause cholera, in 1892, Max von Pettenkofer drank a broth of it. (He did come down with symptoms.) In 1929, Dr. Werner Forssmann carried out the first cardiac catheterization, threading a catheter from his arm all the way into his heart to prove it wouldn’t be fatal. Dr. Barry Marshall proved, in the 1980s, that bacteria are the cause of ulcers by drinking an elixir of Helicobacter pylori bacteria — which earned him several days of vomiting, an endoscopy and stomach biopsy, and the 2005 Nobel Prize.

But in recent decades, executives have gotten in on the practice. Stanford University geneticist Mike Snyder, for instance, has founded several biotech companies, including the genomics-based medicine company Personalis. In 2012 he and coauthors published the “Snyderome”: an in-depth look at his own genome, combined with profiles of his RNA, proteins, and other factors over time.

It's a "This Is Your Life" matrix, complete with floppy disk, BAM!, that will be safely stored away.

Snyder’s study of himself has been running for over six years now, and he’s added elements such as the epigenome and microbiome. “We make billions of measurements every time I am sampled,” he said. That’s coined another epithet for his work: the “narcissome.”


"Genetic manipulation sounds uncomfortably like “playing God” to some critics, but he’s one of the few researchers in the world to study a type of genetic manipulation — essentially cloning — in hopes of eventually improving human health."

The path to ‘three-parent embryos’ has ‘too many question marks’ that require a delicate touch on egg cell surgery because of the red flags from recent studies, but it's a big venture.

Other execs have also become “N-of-1” experiments. As president of Celera Genomics, Craig Venter raced to sequence the first human genome in 2001 — his own. Liz Parrish, CEO of the biotech BioViva USA Inc., was injected last September with two of the company’s experimental gene therapies. Rob Rhinehart, CEO of Soylent Corporation, tweaked the formula for his meal-replacement drink by testing it on himself.

Honestly, what sick $hit would name his company that, and can we be sure what was in the drink he had? 

The elite with all their sumptuous buffets, out of the goodness of their hearts, want to replace one of the few joys of living, a good meal. 

All for your own good, of course.

David Whitlock, the founding scientist behind AOBiome, uses the company’s bacteria products instead of showering. Josiah Zayner — whose company, The ODIN, sells DIY science equipment — recently performed a fecal transplant on himself.

Isn't that how disease spreads?

Self-experiments may hold particular appeal for biomedicine these days. Alongside the rise of personalized medicine — in which treatments are tailored to a single person — experiments on just one person suddenly become just the right size. “N-of-1 experiments are what precision medicine is all about,” Snyder said.

Thus they will need everything, even your persons, housing, papers, and effects.

All for your own good, of course. 

They’re also a potential cost-saving measure.

I $poke too $oon!

William Bains, a scientist and entrepreneur who teaches about biotech startups at the University of Cambridge, said self-experimentation could let a researcher “leapfrog” millions in developmental costs by getting a new drug straight into human testing and avoiding rounds of tests on cells and animals.

But it can be a risky strategy for a CEO. “If you do test [a product] out on yourself,” Bains said, “conventional investors will regard you as a cowboy, conventional scientists will regard you as an idiot, and then you blow your chance of getting conventional funding.” This is a potential difficulty Parrish, the BioViva CEO who’s receiving her company’s gene therapy, might face with her business, Bains said.

The practice tends to blur lines between genuine research and marketing stunt....

That is why my paper is such a blur the$e days.


So how does he deal with failure?

UPDATE: Virus-hunting astronaut will test DNA-decoding device

Yeah, dream on.