Startup CEO who injected untested herpes cure during live stream found dead

pharmafile | May 2, 2018 | News story | Research and Development Aaron Traywick, Ascendance Biomedical, HIV, herpes, pharma 

Aaron Traywick, the 28-year-old CEO of biotech startup Ascendance Biomedical who made headlines when he injected himself with an untested DIY herpes vaccine during a live streaming session on Facebook back in February this year, has been found dead at a float spa in Washington DC.

Traywick was found face-down and unconscious in a flotation tank, which contains around 10-12 inches of water mixed with around 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt so that users float on the surface, encased in a soundproof pod. Dariush Vaziri, the Manager of Soulex Float Spa, confirmed that Traywick was found on the premises.

The CEO had injected what he described as an “open-access gene therapy system” into his bare leg in front of a live audience at the Body Hacking Convention in Austin, Texas. He claimed that the technology could provide any immunities for diseases that your body does not have the natural antibodies to fight itself, calling it a “powerful tool in a person’s genetic arsenal”.

Earlier, in October, he also found himself at the centre of controversy when he gave his colleague Tristan Roberts a gene-edited substance which was claimed to cure his HIV.

Traywick had no medical background, possessing a degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Montevallo in Alabama. He was a proponent of ‘biohacking’, a belief that scientific breakthroughs can be pursued through real-life experimentation, without sponsorship from academia, corporations or the state. It was a belief that extended to Ascendance’s outlook, with the company website describing its goal of making “cutting edge biomedical technologies available for everyone”.

The attitude is seen as synonymous with attempting to elude or minimise the purview of the FDA, which released a statement in the wake of the news of Traywick’s death warning the public against the rise of such approaches and the availability of similar dubious products: “FDA is aware that gene therapy products intended for self-administration and ‘do it yourself’ kits to produce therapies for self-administration are being made available to the public […] The sale of these products is against the law.”

“FDA is concerned about the safety risks involved,” it added.

Police are investigating the case but the death is being treated as non-suspicious. Ascendance colleague Andres Stuermer told VICE News that those at the company had lost touch with Traywick recently: “It was radio silence. It was more than four weeks ago,” he said, adding: “The future is difficult to predict. He was willing to go where lots of people were afraid to go […] I don’t have the perfect answer to this, but stuff will go on.”

Matt Fellows

Related Content

FDA relaxes blood donation regulations for MSM

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released updated guidance for blood donation which …

GSK’s ViiV and Halozyme to collaborate on ‘ultra-long acting’ HIV drugs

ViiV Healthcare, the specialist HIV company majority owned by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is to collaborate with …

Pfizer sign

Delayed Pfizer vaccine dose gives 3.5 times more immunity, study shows

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is around three and a half times more effective when dosed …

Latest content