Zayner, a biohacker-basically meaning he experiments with biology in a DIY lab rather than a traditional one-was giving a talk called “A Step-by-Step Guide to Genetically Modifying Yourself With CRISPR” at the SynBioBeta conference in San Francisco, where other presentations featured academics in suits and the young CEOs of typical biotech startups.
While at NASA, he started connecting with other biohackers through a mailing list, and recognizing the problems for those who wanted to do DIY work-supplies were hard to find, and suppliers wouldn’t necessarily ship to someone who didn’t have a lab-he started a business in 2013 called The ODIN to start shipping kits and tools to people who wanted to work in their garage or living room.
At his workshop, he argued that people should have the choice to self-experiment if they want to; we also change our DNA when we drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or breathe in dirty city air.
Zayner doesn’t think that it should be, and compares concerns about people learning how to use synthetic biology to concerns about people learning how to use computers in the early 1980s.
Zayner hopes to continue to help as many people as possible become more “DNA literate.”
“I want to live in a world where people are genetically modifying themselves. I want to live in a world where all these cool things we see in sci-fi TV shows are real. Maybe I’m crazy and stupid … but I think maybe this is actually possible.”
“It’s too late: I already made the choice for you. Argument over. Let’s get on with it now. Let’s use this to help people. Or to give people purple skin.”