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Postmortem on DIY Recombinant Covid Vaccine

Only about 300 bases as well. I remember a study on SARS1 that showed higher immune response to an RBD vaccine than a full S1 subunit vaccine in mice. And while I usually trust studies on mice as far as I can throw them, it served as a good enough excuse to be a cheapskate. (And after all, I can throw mice at least moderately far...)

Postmortem on DIY Recombinant Covid Vaccine


Hm, I'm not opposed to it, but given that the project is dead and any future biohacking project I'll take on will get a different name anyway, I'm not sure if changing the name retroactively accomplishes anything. I doubt this experiment will have enough of a lasting impact to cause trouble (beyond the people who were confused by this post, for which I apologize).

edit: I've changed the title for now, that seems to accomplish most of what's needed.

Postmortem on DIY Recombinant Covid Vaccine

Not as far as I know, butThought Emporium on Youtube has a lot of tutorial videos on genetic engineering. (FWIW, Stöcker himself failed to express the protein in bacteria and iirc used CHO instead. I don't see any intrinsic reason why E.Coli shouldn't work, but I'd probably use HEK or CHO myself given the choice)

Postmortem on DIY Recombinant Covid Vaccine

Purification isn't necessary if you buy already purified protein; in my case it was just cheaper to get it in bulk and filter it myself.

Removing the his-tag reduces the low-ish risk of it interfering with the immune response, but not doing so doesn't strike me as dangerous, it's just a dangling chain of histidine after all (and biology doesn't quite work like Unsong, luckily).

As for using peptide vaccines as a booster, I'm mildly optimistic given the evidence. Boosting vector vaccines with mRNA seems stronger than vice-versa, but it's still better than only having n-1 vaccines. I could see the same being true for peptide vaccines.

FWIW, my first official and fourth overall vaccination pretty much knocked me out for two days, so perhaps my experiment wasn't entirely without effect.

Time until graduation as a proxy for picking between (German) universities

Interesting data! I made a similar calculation at the start of my studies, but in the opposite direction - I thought I had the cognitive capacity to study at a fairly rapid level, but ADHD and other projects often got in the way. So I picked a fairly tough university for my subjects (CS and mathematics in Bonn, though CS is "only" in the bottom half) and I'm happy with the result.

I'm not sure how different my experience would have been at other places - I think Germany has a much more homogeneous standard of education than the US - but my math modules definitely challenged me.

Postmortem on DIY Recombinant Covid Vaccine

Oo, I wasn't even aware of that, thanks for the link!

That is a DNA vaccine, so it's more similar to the mRNA vaccines we have now in that it contains genetic data of the virus that is then built by the body itself. This one seems to contain the entire S and N proteins, not just a subunit of the S protein.

DNA vaccines are more complicated than recombinant vaccines to get right and can cause serious damage if done wrong. That and the fact that the more complex a project, the more likely I'm going to procrastinate and let it die, made me stick with the simpler recombinant approach.

At least the ELISA approach to antibody testing is one I could have borrowed, though, and in hindsight I'm a bit disappointed I didn't think of it myself.

Postmortem on DIY Recombinant Covid Vaccine

Hm, most of the people I'm thinking of are rather technical, e.g. Kevin Esvelt's research on distributed secure research.

Coordination and incentive problems are of another nature and I only manage to be prescriptively optimistic. I've been interested in algorithms for decentralized economic planning for a while, plan to specialize in that area and am working with a local left-acc group to organize a think tank that works on these questions. Thanks to mechanism design taking off as a discipline and crypto hype fueling a lot of work on trustless computing, there's actually a surprising amount of relevant research.

Postmortem on DIY Recombinant Covid Vaccine

Not really, was concerned about biological X-risks before and continue to be.

I don't currently see any plausible defense against them - even if we somehow got a sufficient number of nations to stop/moderate gain-of-function research and think twice about what information to publish, genetic engineering will continue to become easier and cheaper over time. As a result, I can see us temporarily offsetting the decline in minimum IQ*money*tech_level needed to destroy humanity but not stop it, and that's already in a geopolitically optimistic scenario.

Luckily there are some intimidatingly smart people working on the problem and I hope they can leverage the pandemic to get at least some of the funding the subject deserves.

Postmortem on DIY Recombinant Covid Vaccine

Yes, I originally planned to include a small section about Stöcker, but it seemed only tangentially related to the project itself and fuel for extensive political discussions.

tldr for the unintiated: Stöcker is the founder of Euroimmun, a company that makes lab chemicals and also happens to make Covid antibody tests. Through his contacts, he managed to get his hands on the spike protein DNA early and made his own recombinant vaccine candidate. He also gave this to several dozen volunteers and lab employees, which he argues falls under a loophole that allows doctors to use unlicensed medicine if no proper treatment exists. The PEI, a German medical regulatory body, however argues that this constitutes an unlicensed medical trial. He is AFAIK still facing a lawsuit, but is nonetheless occasionally vaccinating volunteers until the local police make him stop.

He was always somewhat nutty when it came to politics, though, and has gotten significantly worse during the pandemic, even reblogging "fan mail" about Bill Gates Covid Vaccine conspiracies, so I'm not sure how much faith I have in his data. It's another argument in favor of at least testing subunit vaccines, though, since his writing about the economics of protein production (i.e. supplying Germany many times over within months) is perfectly credible.

Another OT but curious side note: His audience appears to be predominantly anti-vax when it comes to the licensed vaccines yet extremely willing to take his vaccine candidate. This surprised me - sure, I had always assumed that a large aspect of conspiracy communities is opposing anything supported by the government, but not that the specifics really don't matter at all. Stöcker's vaccine has all the (faux) pitfalls the anti-vax community raves against - aluminum, untested, GMO, made with embryonic cells - yet none of this matters in the slightest as long as he's fighting The Man. Might make for an interesting post in its own right.

And yes, I took the vaccine IM with no noticeable side effects.

Intentionally Making Close Friends

Excellent post! It's interesting how this mirrors what I've been attempting to do over the last month - applying some of the ideas from Mark Manson's Models (i.e. the one good dating book out there) to my general social life with surprising success. I've always been a bit of a reclusive guy (big surprise given that I'm on LW, I know) and the two main people I've tried to be more open and emotionally honest with this month have responded very positively. We cuddle, touch and have intimate conversations even though we met fairly recently, which would usually feel awkward to me, but this time it doesn't. Additionally, it doesn't feel like a strategy or a "move", more like I'm just being more of myself and people like me more for it. I like it a lot.

One takeaway for me is that being too frugal with spending my weirdness points has the downside that I don't filter for the kinds of people who are right for me. It makes it easier to get along with everyone, but harder to both build lasting connections and to feel honest about who I am.

Btw, if anyone is looking for more fun questions, School of Life has some card decks designed for introspection and getting to know each other. I'd recommend "Know Yourself" and the dating one. Some of the cards are a bit forced and Freudian, but I've found a few of them pretty insightful. I do introduce them as a game though, they feel too constructed to work well as random questions. Some of my favorites:

  • If you could be sure to achieve one thing, what would you pick? (Around LW people I specify "common accomplishment" to prevent munchkining)
  • Which four adjectives would you use to describe yourself and each other?
  • What did you enjoy as a child? How do you feel about it now?
  • What three works of art/media mean a lot to you and why?
  • List five ways in which you are quite difficult to live with.
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