California investigating 'biohacker' who self-injected CRISPR tech

Josiah Zayner, PhD, biophysicist and founder of at-home genetic engineering startup The Odin, is under investigation by the state of California, according to an official notice he shared on Instagram this week.

The letter was sent from the health quality investigation unit of the state's department of consumer affairs. In it, Dr. Zayner's presence is requested at a meeting with the agency and a district medical consultant regarding a complaint of "unlicensed practice of medicine" filed against him by an unnamed party.

In response, Dr. Zayner wrote on Instagram, "The truth is that 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."

The self-described "biohacker" has made a name for himself with his well-publicized genetic self-experimentation in recent years. In 2016, he attempted a fecal microbiota transplant in a hotel room; the following year, he tried to genetically alter his skin, then, a few months later, livestreamed himself injecting his arm with CRISPR gene editing technology in an attempt to stimulate muscle growth.

Dr. Zayner has had run-ins with government safety agencies before: In 2016, when the FDA requested that The Odin discontinue sales of a kit for brewing glow-in-the-dark beer, the company complied. However, The Odin has continued to sell its kits enabling consumers to conduct their own genetic self-experiments despite a 2017 FDA warning.

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