Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Research and politics

 I listened to https://tim.blog/2021/03/08/vitalik-buterin-naval-ravikant/

A lot of interesting subjects were touched on, but it made me want to write about research.  These guys are smart enough to be enthused about research, and I like the idea of decentralizing research- like they do- but I think their politics bias their view.  They pointed to the development of the COVID vaccines as an example of a good thing, hopefully a sign of things to come- a faster ability to get things done.

But it's a sign of the opposite of what they say they want. 

First, it is important to understand Trump followed the 'experts,' despite claims to the opposite, and this was the primary reason for the speed.  These 'experts' were able to squelch the development of useful treatments.  I believe they did so because having effective treatments means the FDA cannot authorize an experimental vaccine for emergency use.

Instead of decentralized research we had a highly centralized march towards a vaccine- and there's already talk of a booster shot every six months or so.  The costs for this were astronomical.

This versus medications that are extremely cheap, out of patent cheap.  And big corporate/government collaboration versus the decentralized response of doctors around the world.

The costs are too high, and the uncertainty is as well.  We have mRNA technology, but it is unclear that using it in this way makes much sense.  Wouldn't it make more sense to use it in other contexts?  

I remember a few biohacker experiments.  I think one was to increase follistatin, which would be helpful in increasing muscle mass.  Another, I believe, did something to stop his lactose intolerance.  These were the types of things that made sense contextually- you would use mRNA because that's what your body would be using anyway.  

But they just used it out of context.  They used it to get your body to generate spike proteins, which in turn your autoimmune system is supposed to identify and generate antibodies to.  And we have to just hope the immune system can differentiate between this spike protein and ones that are vital in other human biological processes.

We also have to hope that pathogenic priming doesn't happen.  The family of Coronaviruses has been around a long time and there have been attempts at vaccines in the past- especially in cats, from what I can remember, because they seem to suffer a lot when infected.  But past attempts at vaccines ended because the cats that got the shot suffered and died even more severely when they encounter the virus in the wild.  

So it's a bit like they just threw out everything that was known and focused on a highly risky strategy that may backfire with devastating effects.  

Even if it turns out to work, this is still a massive cost, that sets absolutely horrid precedents- ones do not help with the idea of generating more research and/or decentralized research.  In the podcast, they briefly mentioned one class of peptides that might have benefit in anti-ageing, but I guess they did not notice the FDA moving against a different peptide- shutting down access to it because it is a promising anti-viral that might compete with this vaccine industry.  

I'd like to see more decentralized research.  If some of the systems described in the podcast were up and running, I would even be more comfortable with human trails of many things I would not be so comfortable with right now.  An open source sort of approach with people who were truly informed, and able to profit from the risk should it be successful.  Rather than now, where they are just trying to scare people into compliance, the financial benefits are flowing in only one direction, and there's very little in terms of medical benefit to hope for.

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