Everybody talks about the weather...

Problems facing digital health apps, thoughts on cyborgs, and an wild idea for innovation at FDA.

Do you know someone who might want to read Sex, Drugs, and Biotech? Share this email!

It is absurd to me that restaurants are set to reopen in Los Angeles this week, where people are still dying in incredible numbers. The emergence of the vaccine, which is being handled very badly here in California, is not an excuse for complacency. But people being people, it’s easier for most of us to sit back, relax, complain, and do nothing.

Apparently we’re doing nothing all the time! The country is in the midst of “a pandemic-inspired baby bust,” according to NBCLX, which inspired a Twitter chat kicked off by Melody Schreiber, a journalist who writes the Not a Doctor newsletter and also has a young child. The gist of our Twitter discussion was this: It’s really difficult to parent during the pandemic and parents who are doing so are feeling like they have enough children at the moment thankyouverymuch. But it’s not just the pandemic. This is a problem, in general, especially for moms.

Here’s the latest.

A new view on what defines “biohacking”

Luke Robert Mason, who used to run the weirdest and most fashionable futurist salon in London, interviewed cyborg activist and founder of CyborgNest, Liviu Babitz, on the Futures podcast.

The chat is a great primer on the concept and history of cyborgism for those unfamiliar. But if you’re like me and this is your actual job, you might especially consider a listen for the part of the conversation where Babitz begins blurring the lines between biomedical and cyborg biohackers, and the Bulletproof people clogging your feed on Instagram. I have been determined not to include biohackers like the ones featured in a recent LA Magazine article in my definition of “biohacking”—until I considered Babitz’s take. It’s all part of a package. Eventually, he says, there will be plenty of folks participating in many kinds of morphological enhancement at once.

I still don’t believe people playing with supplements should call themselves “biohackers,” but I’m willing to be convinced that I might be wrong. The debate rages. Read this paper about terminology in the movement, and leave a comment or find another way to let me know your thoughts.

FDA should open an office for independent researchers

Along with my friends Christi Guerrini and Patti Zettler, I co-authored a piece in Stat about an admittedly far-fetched idea for the Biden-Harris administration to consider: an FDA Office of Independent Science. As the movements for Community Biology, biomedical citizen science, and biohacking continue to evolve together and separately, it would be mutually beneficial to everyone to become more friendly. Especially in light of companies that may actually create consumer products.

For this to happen successfully, regulators and researchers must understand and respectfully work with one another… Trust is a two-way street, after all, and both regulators and independent scientists can be valuable to one another.

Synthetic Biology Partners With AI To Delete Food Allergies, Forbes/SynBioBeta
Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Deep Phenotyping, A Bill of Health Symposium

Problems in DTC genetic testing and digital health

Oh, man. Fingers crossed that the Biden administration finally takes control of the badly behaved toddler twins of biotech. Direct-to-consumer digital health apps and genetic testing services are both facing a slew of related issues around privacy, ethical dubiousness, and the ways they might hope to interface with existing health policy infrastructure, which plays the role of a babysitter who just can’t keep up.

Extra Credit:

Legendary newspaper editor Marty Baron is retiring. Washington Post. (One time, he left me a really angry voicemail and I will never not tell that story at parties.)
The Age of Reinvention is upon us, says Andrew Hessel. Biodesigned
How is Biden going to handle cannabis products and research? Marijuana Moment
FDA approves a new deep brain stimulator for Parkinson's disease. FierceBiotech
Is Israel trading medical information for vaccines? (Probably). Bill of Health
Abolish Silicon Valley, says Wendy Liu at The Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure
ICYMI: Please read this interview with Dr. Fauci. The New York Times
23andMe has a tool that tells you if you have a risk of severe Covid. Bloomberg