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Biohacking with Ed Hubbard, Part 1


Ed Hubbard is a technology entrepreneur and has been CEO or played a key management role at companies such as United Devices, MapMyFitness, and Uber. He’s a student of longevity, and today shares his story on life extension and bio-hacking.

Show Notes

Links to things mentioned in the show:


Welcome to the podcast.


Thanks for coming on and being willing to share some of your experiences and your journey for better health and wellness.

Happy to do it.

You’ve done a lot of experiments on yourself, a lot of different things. More than most people that I know.

Okay. Yeah, I guess I’m a Biohacker Huh?

So that’s what’s gonna make the conversation interesting. So what first got you interested in, in researching and exploring and then implementing all the different ways that you’re making yourself live forever?

All right, well let me try to make this a succinct story. I had a company here in Austin that we founded years and years ago back in 1999 and we built software that would allow you to tie together lots and lots and lots of processing power. And there’s a few industries that can use that kind of software; design companies, crash simulation stuff at car companies, financial companies use this kind of processing power to run thousands of millions of Monte Carlo simulations. What we settled on was a, it looks like Pharma was actually moving from wetlab synthesis for small molecule drug development to in silico, which just means doing almost as many or all of the early experiments for drug discovery in a machine. That turns out to be really computationally intensive. So they needed lots of compute power and we basically sold eight of the top 10 pharma’s software to help them discover drugs. That’s the beginning part of the story. The middle part of the story is we had to learn a lot about drug discovery and life sciences and health. The big problem with that is that we were all engineers, or MBAs and none of us knew much about life sciences or drug discovery. So we had a lot to learn. So we read a lot of books. We talked a lot of people. We hired a lot of smart people that knew what they were doing and drug discovery and at some point what you find out is they call it drug discovery for a reason. And the reason is there’s very little first principles engineering work going on here. It’s, “I have a problem in a biological system, I am looking for a small molecule to help solve that problem and it’s a very difficult problem to solve, uh, by designing a small molecule versus trying to discover a small molecule that either already exists or is easy to synthesize” and you do that with lots and lots of compute power. So it was a pretty eye opening for all of us lay people to learn that what we thought was this incredibly high tech industry is actually pretty low tech. And discovering drugs is a kind of like winning the lottery. And that was, uh, that was just crazy right? And it gets worse because then later we started selling to some of the clinical organizations that these pharma’s. And I’m. The reason you need to do a clinical trial, uh, of course is because once I have the small molecule drug, uh, I’m not quite sure what it’s going to do in your body after you swallow it versus an older woman’s body or a younger man’s body or an Asians body or a African American or pick whatever genome variation you want. They’re just not many good ways to figure out what’s going to happen with that small molecule in all of these different genomes. So you do this big clinical study to expose the small molecule to as many people as possible to see what happens. And that is also a not very efficient and a pretty brutal actually in some cases. So it turns out that, you know, you think there’s a lot of knowledge and expertise and of course there is. I don’t want to denigrate the industry, but there’s still a lot that we don’t know about human health. Certainly on an individual level things aren’t tuned for my genome versus your genome versus the people outside outside’s genomes walking by the window. So it turns out there’s a, there’s a lot of optimization that you can do if you really want to dive in to your health and your, your genome and what’s going on in your body versus everybody else’s. So with that experience, we, me and some other other guys at the company decided to get a lot more serious about our health. And so since then been doing all kinds of crazy things.

Now you had your DNA tested. What did you, what did you discover?

So probably, I don’t know how many years ago it was now, but when 23 and me got started, the original business model was much more interesting than the current one, which is mainly about ancestry. Okay. Probably a great business and interesting data, but the original business model was spit in a tube and send it to us and we will do the analysis for your snips and snips are single nucleotide polymorphism. So when you do a sequence alignment between two humans, you’ll get As, Ts, Cs and Gs right and big, big, long stretches that are all the same. And then every once in awhile you’ll come to a difference. Those differences are what make each human unique and different. And those are the snips. Sometimes snips are just a difference in eye color or hair color, but sometimes they can make you more prone to, um, for instance, in my case, prostate cancer for instance, if you’re a female, you wouldn’t have to worry about that. But I’ve got some genes that it turns out when you look at the data of people that have prostate cancer, these snips tend to stick out and people that have prostate cancer sometimes have these snips in a much higher proportion than the population. So when you have this set of snips a to use, you know, you’re kind of worried about prostate cancer. One of the other bad snips I had was for melanoma, so skin cancer, a huge chunk of my family’s Irish. So probably not a huge surprise that I have some of those snips. Right? So when you get that data, it’s interesting data, but sometimes it’s hard to act on, right? So pretty tough still to this day to act on a prostate cancer prevention. I mean there’s some things you can do, which I’m doing, but still other than healthy lifestyle and, and we can talk about Metformin and some other things later, but um, it’s tough to take action on that. Skin cancer risk is a little easier, right? Make sure you use lots of sunscreen and try to limit exposure, wear long sleeve shirts, hats, things like that. So it should help on the margin, but tough to say, right, whether those, whether those actions I take now will really prevent these things later. Now 23andMe mainly focused on the ancestry. They have gotten back into the business a little bit of sharing some health data and annotating the database on your snips. Um, it was a big fight with the FDA for them to get back to the point that they can do that. I find it really annoying that the FDA gets in the way of these companies providing whatever cutting edge information they can for me, right. Based on my genome. But nonetheless, that’s the, that’s the world we live in with the, with the FDA. I wish they would have just moved the company to the Cayman Islands and put up the server and just kept doing what they doing, but they didn’t do that.

So you were telling me as well about some supplements or things that you do on the melanoma side that may help prevent skin cancer and those sorts of things. Right?

Yeah. So I’m maybe somewhat controversially, um, hard to say. But, um, it turns out there is a, uh, there’s a supplement. It’s called Astxanthin. And I first read about it because some Ironman, uh, kind of triathlete type people were taking it before they were out all day in the sun, biking and swimming and running and sweating a lot and their, their sunscreen coming off. Um, it turns out that there’s a small molecule that is sorta like anti-matter for this thing called RHOS, which is, um, the reaction that happens in your skin after too much sun exposure is that the skin is inflamed and it releases these things called rose, which are radically highly oxidative stressors. And that’s where the burning sensation from and the damage and Astaxanthin is kinda like the anti matter for, for those molecules. Astaxanthin comes from a, a tide pool, algae. The tidepool algae is under the water part of the time. Then when the tide goes out, the algae is sitting or exposed to uv. And so it over the eons has evolved this substance to help protect it from the UV damage that occurs. And so personally for me, I think it works. I have, I have taken it on and off, especially when I knew there was gonna be a lot of sun exposure and um, I should’ve got sunburned a few times over the years when I was taking it and I definitely did not get sunburned and I suppose there’s maybe some placebo effect, although I don’t, I have no idea how that’s possible in this case. Um, so I’m a believer, it’s a very powerful antioxidant and I take it to help because of the snips that I have for melanoma.

Couldn’t hurt, right?

Probably not. Although, you know, there there’s a bunch of, there’s a bunch of things with cancer that, you know, perhaps you shouldn’t take too many antioxidants because oxygen molecules are very bad for cancer cells generally. So, so there’s a, you know, there’s a balance like with anything in life, right? Um, you know, is water toxic? No, of course we all need water, right? But the answer is yes, it can be toxic if you take a big enough dose over a short enough period of time, right? So there needs to be balanced with all of these things, right? Otherwise, too much of any good thing can be a bad thing.

Tell us about your personal doctor.

Years ago I read a book called live long enough to live forever. And that was a book that Ray Kurzweil wrote with a doctor and the doctor’s name was Dr Terry Grossman. Roll the clock forward another decade. And um, I was able to, uh, talk to Dr Grossman and, uh, kind of make them my, my personal wellness doc. And so I go out to a Golden Colorado, uh, periodically for a in-person checkup and in between those times we do a bunch of blood tests and all the latest and greatest kind of screening tests that are cutting edge tech right now. And most people probably won’t have heard of them. But nonetheless, they are coming on the market quickly and they can help you potentially live longer, right? And Healthier. So I can’t say enough good things about Dr Grossman and I said this before and uh, I was at a conference and he was there and uh, he was talking to some people and he’s like, oh, Ed’s a patient. And uh, and, and, and, um, I said, yeah, he’s awesome. I love Dr Grossman. And he said, hey, you know, I didn’t even pay him to do that. And I said, it’s way worse than that. I actually pay him to say this stuff, right. So, uh, but he’s a great guy and I’m in a really privileged situation to have the ability to go to a kind of private concierge doctor like this. And I know a lot of people aren’t, but there’s a lot of things that you can do that, um, you don’t be, you know, a Dr Grossman for. Be healthy exercise, get enough sleep, don’t eat a bunch of junk.

All the un-fun things.

Yeah, exactly. All the things that you don’t want to do.

And even though it’s cutting edge though, like everything he looks at and prescribes is all like evidence-based.

Oh absolutely.

So it’s not like it’s crazy “woo woo” it’s just not mass adopted by medicine in general because they adopt so slow.

There’s a lot of blood tests that can look for cancer biomarkers now. Right. But I mean, nobody’s taking these things, right? Which is stupid.