Biohacking: “He hopes one day to collect as many as 3,000 faecal samples from donors and share the findings publicly”

Izabella Kamiunska:

For the most part Dabrowa, a 41-year old Melbourne-based Australian who styles himself as a bit of an expert on most things, prefers to conduct his biohacking experiments in his kitchen. He does this mostly to find cures for his own health issues. Other times just for fun.

Despite a lack of formal microbiological training, Dabrowa has successfully used faecal transplants and machine learning to genetically modify his own gut bacteria to lose weight without having to change his daily regime. The positive results he’s seen on himself have encouraged him to try to commercialise the process with the help of an angel investor. He hopes one day to collect as many as 3,000 faecal samples from donors and share the findings publicly.

Much of his knowledge — including the complex bits related to gene-editing — was gleaned straight from the internet or through sheer strength of will by directly lobbying those who have the answers he seeks. “Whenever I was bored, I went on YouTube and watched physics and biology lectures from MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology],” he explains. “I tried the experiments at home, then realised I needed help and reached out to professors at MIT and Harvard. They were more than happy to do so.” 

At the more radical end of the community are experimentalists such as Josiah Zayner, a former Nasa bioscientist, who became infamous online after performing gene therapy on himself in front of a live audience. Zayner’s start-up, The Odin — to which Crispr pioneer and professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School George Church is an adviser — has stubbornly resisted attempts to regulate its capacity to sell gene-editing kits online in the idealistic belief that everyone should be able to manage their own DNA.