A group of MIT and Harvard scientists are biohacking themselves with a DIY COVID-19 vaccine

RADVAC, the Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative, is a group of scientists who first got together in early March to experiment with potential coronavirus solutions … on their own bodies. From their website:

Beginning early in the 2020 pandemic, we designed, produced, and self-administered several progressive generations of nasal vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. As of August 2020, over two dozen of us have self-administered the vaccine. We have not filed any patents or other intellectual property protections, and all information on our vaccine designs, material procurement, production, self-administration, and testing are freely shared on this website under open licenses (CC BY 4.0 and OCL-P v1.1) in partnership with the Creative Commons Open COVID Pledge.

In addition to publicly releasing the results of our vaccine work, we are working with other researchers to advance new kinds of testing to assess immunity. We hope to motivate others around the world to build on our efforts, to share their research openly, and to deploy protective vaccines rapidly and safely.

The MIT Technology Review magazine adds:

[Scientist Preston] Estep says he quickly gathered volunteers, many of whom had worked previously with the Personal Genome Project (PGP), an open-science initiative founded in 2005 at Church's lab to sequence people's DNA and post the results online. "We established a core group, most of them [from] my go-to posse for citizen science, though we have never done anything quite like this," says Estep, also a cofounder of Veritas Genetics, a DNA sequencing company.

To come up with a vaccine design, the group dug through reports of vaccines against SARS and MERS, two other diseases caused by coronaviruses. Because the group was working in borrowed labs with mail-order ingredients, they wouldn't make anything too complicated. The goal was to find "a simple formula that you could make with readily available materials," Estep says. "That narrowed things down to a small number of possibilities." He says the only equipment he needed was a pipette (a tool to move small amounts of liquid) and a magnetic stirring device.

In early July, Radvac posted a white paper detailing its vaccine for anyone to copy. There are four authors named on the document, as well as a dozen initials of participants who remain anonymous, some in order to avoid media attention and others because they are foreigners in the US on visas.

What could go wrong? Probably about the same as could go right.

Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative

Some scientists are taking a DIY coronavirus vaccine, and nobody knows if it's legal or if it works [Antonio Regalado / MIT Technology Review]