Overview

Biohacking, the science of altering parts of the body or mind to optimize their performance, is a newly introduced and fast-rising concept in the world today. Although it originated in Silicon Valley, U.S., the world is gradually starting to notice and embrace this phenomenon. From simple routine processes like fasting periodically and drinking salt juice every morning to complex procedures like implanting chips in body parts like the hand and brain, biohacking is an emerging trend becoming more and more popular in some parts of the world today.

Modern biohacking involves various activities such as using gene-editing software (like CRISPR), adopting dopamine fasting methods, tracking diet and sleep to alter human biology, and undertaking young blood transfusions to battle aging, among others.

Also known as Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Biology, Biohacking has not gained complete widespread adoption globally yet. The most popular type of biohacking currently involves carrying out experiments outside traditional labs and institutes with the hope of (scientifically) improving physical and cognitive human performance. Biohackers today form a branch of “Transhumanism”, a movement that believes humans can and should use technology to augment and evolve our species.

The global biohacking market was valued at approximately US $12.1 billion as of 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20.4%, reaching about US $54 billion by 2027.

In 2016, Elon Musk (2nd richest man globally) founded the Neuralink venture (a biohacking company) that develops ultra-fine threads implanted into the brain to discover and augment neuron activities. Elon Musk has invested over US $100 million for this project, and he began the human trial by the second half of 2020, subject to FDA approval. Elon Musk is just one of many visionaries in this field, seeking to improve the quality of human life by optimizing human abilities scientifically through the use of biohacking solutions. This shows the potential for biohacking to become a world-renowned industry in no time at all. Presently, copious experiments and developments are being conducted by organizations globally to develop biohacking solutions as they could prove useful in the battle against the global pandemic. The market is therefore expected to grow even further, owing to biohacking’s extensive uses and perceived benefits to the human race.

Most common types of biohacking

  • Nutrigenomics: This field of biohacking is concerned with how food types consumed interacts with the human genes. This is a popularly-known form of biohacking that is founded on the theory that the genetic expression of the human body can be analyzed and optimized by testing how various nutrients affect people over time.
  • Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Biology: DIY is a biohacking type engaged in by people with strong scientific backgrounds, seeking to optimize their body by conducting structured experiments on themselves outside a controlled experimental environment like labs.
  • Grinder: This is a biohacking subculture that views every part of the human body as “hack-able”. In essence, grinders prefer to optimize their bodies with chemical injections, gadgets, implants, and anything else that can help them upgrade their body systems.

Some notable biohacking companies

Having explored the rise and trends of the biohacking industry, here are a few select startups making significant progress in this exciting new field.

Neuralink is improving the capabilities of the brain through technological augmentation. A “neural lace” would be surgically attached to a human brain and enable a user to communicate with a computer without the bandwidth difficulties that come with current input methods, including mice, keyboards, and trackpads. The startup plans to explore how brain interfaces might alleviate the symptoms of dangerous and chronic medical conditions.

Highlights

Founders: Elon Musk and Max Hodac

Date of Incorporation: July 2016

Headquarters: San Francisco, California, United States

Funding Amount: US$ 158 million

Funding Status: Series B

Fitbit

Fitbit develops an ultra-compact wireless wearable sensor called the Fitbit Tracker that automatically monitors data about a person’s activities, such as sleep quality, calories burned, steps, and distance. The Fitbit Tracker gathers activity data automatically while it is worn by the user all day. The obtained data is wirelessly uploaded to a website where the user can examine their data and track their development toward personal goals.

Highlights

Founders: Aatu Nieminen, Eric Friedman, and James Park

Date of Incorporation: May 1, 2007

Headquarters: San Francisco, California, United States

Funding Amount: US$ 66 million

Funding Status: Series D

HVMN

HVMN (also known as Nootrobox) is an e-commerce startup providing nootropics or cognitive supplements. The startup’s supplements help to redefine the boundaries of human performance, longevity, and metabolism. Examples include Rise (a pill aimed at enhancing memory) and Sprint (to increase energy and focus), empowering users in applying edge metabolism & physiology research to promote health and performance goals that help to diagnose, operate, cure, or prevent any illness.

Highlights

Founders: Geoffrey Woo and Michael Brandt

Date of Incorporation: 2014

Headquarters: San Francisco, California, United States

Funding Amount: US$ 8.2 million

Funding Status: Series unknown

 Synbiota

Synbiota radically reduces barrier-to-entry for building blockbuster Life Science products by virtualizing the complete research and development pipeline. With Synbiota, anyone with a web-connected device and a wish to transform the world can leverage biotechnology to design disruptive products and applications in materials, medicine, food, and fuel.

Highlights

Founders: Connor Dickie, Mason Edwards, and Pantea Razzaghi

Date of Incorporation: 2013

Headquarters: Westmount, Quebec, Canada

Funding Amount: US$ 162.2K

Funding Status: Seed

Conclusion

Biohacking in the world today is gaining traction and widespread recognition speedily from the masses. Investors are currently clamoring to exploit the vast potentials this innovative industry has to offer. In an era characterized by ground-breaking advances in technology, the majority believes biohacking presents an opportunity to take the human race to the next step of the evolution ladder. The industry is already making impressive progress and seems to be advancing rapidly in its goal of providing a future where humans can adjust their biological components (naturally or scientifically) in line with their preferences.

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