Aaron Traywick dropped his pants and prepared to plunge a small syringe into his left thigh. His colleagues leaned in to get a closer look. The audience in the crowd was momentarily silent, as if gritting their teeth and holding their breath.
The syringe was filled with an experimental herpes therapy based on a treatment method only previously tested in mice, and Traywick was about to become the first human to ever try it. On stage. In front of an audience. With his pants down.
Traywick is the theatrical 28-year-old CEO of Ascendance Biomedical, a strange biotech firm funding what might be politely described as very unorthodox approaches to biomedical research. The vaccine he injected into his thigh at Body Hacking Con in Austin on Sunday wasn’t something made in a fancy academic lab and put through the Food and Drug Administration’s rigorous clinical trial application process. It was made by biohackers contracted by Ascendance, with no PhDs or access to million dollar labs.