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“Josiah Zayner’s plan was simple: replicate a Covid-19 vaccine that had worked in monkeys, test it on himself and then livestream the experiment online over a period of months,” reports Bloomberg.

“Zayner discovered, testing a vaccine is far more complicated than he had imagined.”
Even though his experiment yielded a promising result, Zayner found too many unanswered questions to say that it worked. For one, it wasn’t clear whether antibodies he found in his own body in extremely tiny measures before the experiment began made a difference… As the U.S. rushes to bring a vaccine to market far faster than has ever been done, Zayner said he has discovered why the long, slow process of clinical trials shouldn’t be rushed. A promising early stage result is just that: promising…

Initially, Zayner assumed that the experiment he named Project McAfee, after the antiviral software, would be relatively straightforward. The vaccine selected had triggered protective immunity against the virus in rhesus macaque monkeys in a paper published in May. Zayner was able to order the same spike protein sequence from the DNA-synthesis company the researchers had used. The plan: He and two fellow biohackers — Daria Dantseva in Ukraine and David Ishee in Mississippi — would themselves test the concoction they ordered online. They would then livestream the entire process online over several months, with the first showing to occur in June.

But early on in the experiment, complications arose. Before starting, Zayner took a test at Lab Corp Inc. that told him he didn’t already have antibodies to the virus. But when he performed a similar test on himself shortly afterward, he found that he did have some antibodies, just not enough to produce a positive result on Lab Corp’s test. While those antibodies didn’t appear to be the neutralizing type, he wondered whether the result came because the vaccine was picking up signals from antibodies to a different virus — or how this faint antibody signal might affect things. “I’m very suspicious of my own data,” he said.
He’s not alone. Hank Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford University, said Zayner’s experiment pointed out an underappreciated reality of vaccine development. “Actually making the vaccine isn’t that hard,” he said. “It’s testing it and knowing that it’s safe — and knowing that it’s effective….” Zayner’s next project will focus on showing people how to grow chicken cells to make their own fake meat. With vaccines, Zayner concluded, “Large scale clinical trials are probably required, because it is so messy.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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