Aaron Traywick, the controversial CEO of the biohacking company Ascendance Biomedical, which encouraged people to conduct medical research outside the confines of pharmaceutical companies and academia, died Sunday in Washington, D.C., police confirmed to VICE News Tuesday. He was 28.
Traywick was found dead in a spa room in a building on Massachusetts Avenue downtown , according to police. Andreas Stuermer and Tristan Roberts, who worked with Ascendance Biomedical, said a family member told them that Traywick was discovered in a flotation therapy tank. While the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C. is now investigating Traywick’s death, the agency doesn’t have any evidence to suggest foul play at this time, police said.
“Aaron was a passionate visionary. He seemingly never tired as he brought people together to work on some of the most imposing challenges facing humanity,” Roberts said in a statement. “While many in the biohacking scene disagreed with his methods, none of them doubted his intentions. He sought nothing short of a revolution in biomedicine; the democratization of science and the opening of the flood gates for global healing.”
Ascendance Biomedical rose to prominence thanks in part to its workers’ willingness to publicly experiment on themselves. Traywick once dropped his pants on a conference stage to inject himself with what he said was a potential herpes treatment, and sat next to Roberts as he live-streamed injecting himself with a compound designed to alter his genetic code and cure him of HIV.
But in recent weeks, Traywick — who had no medical background — had lost touch with his colleagues at Ascendance Biomedical. Disagreements over the company’s direction and philosophical differences over how to best distribute its creations split the small startup.
“We all lost touch with him. It was radio silence,” Stuermer, a researcher, told VICE News, which profiled the company earlier this month. “It was more than four weeks ago."
Stuermer is also hopeful that the scientists who once worked at Ascendance Biomedical will continue their work.
"The future is difficult to predict. He was willing to go where lots of people were afraid to go,” Stuermer said of Traywick. “I don't have the perfect answer to this, but stuff will go on."
Cover image: Aaron Traywick, VICE News on HBO