Renowned Biohacker Is Being Investigated for Practicing Medicine Without a License

Photo: Kristen V. Brown (Gizmodo)

A NASA scientist-turned-biohacker celebrity and entrepreneur—who has won over mad scientists around the world for his anti-establishment science advocacy—is reportedly being investigated for practicing medicine without a license.

Josiah Zayner has gained a following through his various publicized experiments, including injecting his forearm with CRISPR and performing a DIY fecal transplant meant to treat his digestive issues. His company, The Odin, aims to make genetic engineering more accessible to garage researchers.

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At a 2017 gathering of biohackers in 2017, Zayner explained his ethos by quoting form the 1986 “Hacker Manifesto.” “Yes I am a criminal,” he read, comparing himself to the hackers of yore. “And my crime is that of curiosity.”

It seems the State of California is currently considering whether it agrees with part of that sentiment. On Wednesday, Zayner posted a letter from the California Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigation.

The letter states that investigators are “reviewing a complaint of unlicensed practice of medicine” against Zayner, and the District Medical Consultant is seeking to talk with the biohacker

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The California Department of Consumer Affairs did not respond to a request for comment. It would not confirm to MIT Technology Review that it was investigating Zayner or comment on what charges Zayner is facing.

“WTF!!!! I have been accused of practicing medicine without a license because of genetic self-experimentation and showing people how to access publicly available knowledge,” Zayner wrote in the post. “I have never given anyone anything to inject or use, never sold any material meant to treat a disease and never claim to provide treatments or cures because I knew this day would come.”

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He went on to criticize the FDA and their refusal “to allow people access to cutting edge treatments or in some cases even basic healthcare,” adding, “Yet I am the one threatened with jail.”

Zayner did not immediately respond to Gizmodo request for comment.

The investigator asked to meet with Zayner on June 11. As MIT Technology Review reported in its coverage of the investigation, practicing medicine without a license in California can be a felony or misdemeanor potentially punishable with a $10,000 fine and up to three years in jail.

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Jennings Brown

Senior editor and reporter at Gizmodo