She called it “probably the least ethical thing on the planet, right now.” The she is Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of BioViva . The it is bioethics.
In the context of my “Ending Aging” interview with Parrish (AOR, March 2018 ), she was advocating for more and freer patient choice in selecting experimental cutting-edge therapies. This came in the wake of her 2015 sojourn offshore from the United. States. (to Colombia), that enabled her to bypass U.S. regulations and have two of her company’s genetic editing procedures performed on herself. She was attempting to halt or even reverse some aspects of biological aging. She pointed out that it would take up to a $1.5 billion and a half dollars and 15 to 20 years to gain approval of these procedures in the U.S. By going offshore to where regulations are laxer, the process could be accelerated.
That’s all well and good; but what came next should raise some eyebrows. Parrish stated that the next phase would be to perform procedures on ten patients, which might ultimately lead to full- scale clinical trials, —all in countries with softer regulations. I actually volunteered to be a subject, probably half seriously, to see if anything would happen.
Parrish stated that the next phase would be to perform procedures on ten patients, which might ultimately lead to full- scale clinical trials, —all in countries with softer regulations.
To quote a Joseph Heller book title, Something Happened. And it shocked me. I was contacted by BioViva offering me a slot in the next phase, . . . but with one huge catch. They wanted me to pay $20,000 plus offshore travel expenses for the honor of being an early phase Guinea guinea pig. I objected directly to Parrish.
“20K is a bit rich for my blood for a trial,” I told her., “I’d pay five times that much if it were close to be proven, though.”
“Well than then wait for our data,” “ she replied, “many of our patients don’t have ten years.”
Let me be clear: at this juncture her data is N=1. All we know for sure is that there have been no ill effects so far, and some sketchy data that her immune system cells look slightly younger.
So, —does all this give the appearance that she is praying on desperate older people to fund her research? I don’t know if that’s the intent, but is it sure looks that way. And that begs the question:, is she conducting research or running a latter-day laetrile clinic? It certainly gives the impression of the latter, and my concern is twofold.
First, it appears that her bold statement dissing bioethics may have been just self-justifying hyperbole. We aren’t talking patient choice here; —we are talking corporate expediency at the expense of needy patients.
Second, and even more disturbing, is the pall this could cast on the entire field of research into reversing human aging. There are serious scientists doing serious work in this regard, —but the public remains largely oblivious, and more than one reader on the Facebook Page post for this interview, and one with Aubrey de Grey of SENS Foundation, called this work quackery. Heck, one even shot the messenger and called me a quack for reporting on it. To the extent this gets out—particularly if there are ill effects or just absolutely none—it could set the field back significantly.
The ball is in Bioviva’s court. —here’s Here’s hoping the whole thing does not become one big technical foul.