Next Monday - talk and Q&A by Alex Hoekstra on open source vaccines and the Mind First Foundation

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Dan Elton

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Jun 5, 2023, 9:59:22 PM6/5/23
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Hi, 

What: Talk by ACX Grantee Alex Hoekstra followed by Q&A and socializing 
Where: Cambridge Public Library Main Branch Basement Auditorium 
When: Monday, June 12, 2023 at 6:30 - 8:30 PM


Alex was awarded a $100k ACX grant in 2021 to support the open-source vaccine initiative he co-founded, RaDVaC.

Alex will talk about lessons learned during the pandemic, the FDA, and the future of open-source vaccines. He will also talk about his work at the Mind First Foundation, where he has been thinking about AI and augmenting human intelligence.

This event is being co-hosted with the Boston Futurism & Transhumanism Meetup and Boston Area Progress Studies Meetup.  

Schedule
6:00 - 6:30 A/V setup and informal socializing in the hallway
6:30 - Alex Hoekstra's lecture starts
7:00 - 8:00ish Q & A and "fireside chat" with Alex and other members of the RaDVaC team
8:00 - 8:30 socializing (we may leave to pizza place)
9:00 pm - library closes

Location:
The Cambridge Public Library Main Branch, in the basement auditorium. Parking is available on the street and in the basement lot under the library.

Background on RaDVaC:
During the pandemic RaDVaC developed the first open-source SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Their vaccine has several features that separate it from vaccines currently under use -- it is intranasally delivered, uses synthetic peptides, and is extremely easy to produce. RaDVaC has written a whitepaper which explains how anyone can synthesize their own vaccine. Over 100 people so far have tested the vaccine to verify its safety. RaDVaC has also published a “step-up” challenge trial whitepaper for efficacy studies. This radical approach has garnered them much attention worldwide.

Background on the FDA's vaccine authorizations during the pandemic
As Alex and RaDvaC have emphasized, though SARS-CoV-2 vaccine rollout in 2021 was much faster than any previously, it still did not maximize all of the efficiencies achievable with current scientific capabilities and technologies. Additionally, given the safety of vaccines in the past, and the rapidly predictable and verifiable safety profiles of new vaccines, decision making on the policy and individual levels did not reflect a rational benefit risk assessment. In other words, possible risks of vaccines were greatly inflated, while benefits were greatly underassessed. RaDVaC aims to lower vaccine rollout time to months or even weeks, using open source technology and knowledge approaches, a new challenge trial design, and individual consent. They also contribute to the discourse on the need for regulatory changes and public health messaging.

Others have more strongly expressed that the FDA failed the American people by not authorizing vaccines fast enough in the first year of the pandemic. The mRNA vaccines were invented just months into the pandemic, and comprehensive safety studies followed shortly thereafter. Immunogenicity studies showed a strong immune response, indicating a very high likelihood that the vaccines were effective. However, the FDA prevented people from accessing those vaccines for many months until large and drawn-out Phase 3 RCT studies could be conducted. Maxwell Tabarrok's analysis indicates that if the FDA had EUA'd the vaccine just four months earlier hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved. Later, in January 2021 the FDA refused to authorize Astrazeneca's vaccine for emergency use, despite it having been authorized in the UK a month earlier, millions of doses sitting in warehouses in Baltimore, Maryland, thousands of people dying daily in the US, and a severe shortage of vaccines across the country.

Background on Alex:
Alex is co-founder of the Mind First Foundation and RaDVaC. He is a biotechnologist with over ten years of experience in biotech R&D. He previously worked as Project Coordinator for the Personal Genome Project (PGP), an initiative of George Church's lab at Harvard. He currently serves on the board at BosLab, Boston's DIY Bio lab.

Regards, 
-- Dan 
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