Known for his controversial biological experiments, the CEO of the Ascendance Biomedical start-up Aaron Traywick was found dead on April 29th. In early February, he injected a vaccine against herpes, which is still unknown if he is the cause of his death.
He was one of the best known figures in biohacking, this new approach to biology that has distanced itself from academic laboratories and encourages individuals to individually test technologies and treatments for better health.
That did not help him: on April 29, Aaron Traywick, 28, was found dead in the sensory isolation chamber of a Washington DC spa. CEO of Ascendance Biomedical, a small stat-up of the biological research not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and testing his treatments by self-experimentation, he said he wanted to make "advanced biomedical technologies available for everyone".
"First human guinea pig"
Without medical training, Aaron Traywick had built his reputation on these self-tests. The biohacker made headlines last February 4 when, at a convention in Houston, Texas, he injected a vaccine against herpes. Developed from a scientific article involving "glycoprotein D" in the spread of the herpes virus, the vaccine had so far only been tested on rodents.
Self-proclaimed "first human guinea pig", Aaron Traywick leaned on a legal vacuum to conduct his experiments. There is no federal law in the United States prohibiting the self-administration of substances.
However, his gesture at the convention had been badly perceived by the biohacking community, which accused him of giving her a bad image. In a similar event, another Ascendance Biomedical employee injected an experimental treatment for HIV.
Mystery around his death
It is unclear for the moment whether the herpes vaccine that Aaron Traywick injected three months earlier caused his death. An investigation was opened by Washington DC police and an autopsy will be performed to determine the causes and circumstances of his death.
Interviewed by Vice, Tristan Roberts, a former biohacker colleague, said that "although many members of the biohacking community disagreed with his methods, none of them doubted his intentions." "Aaron was a passionate visionary, he never looked tired, he gathered people to work on some of the most daunting challenges facing humanity (...) He was aiming for nothing less than a revolution in biomedicine: the democratization of science and the opening of doors for global treatment. "
In recent weeks, Aaron Traywick had been isolated from his activities at Ascendance Biomedical. "We had all lost touch with him, it was radio silence," said his former colleague Andreas Stuermer.