Sunday, August 7, 2016

What fools these mortals be
(the Blood is the Life)

They bled an old dog dry yet the exchange rills
Of young dog blood give but a month’s desires;
The waste remains. the waste remains and kills.
I hope I am not alone in hearing that poem recited in the dulcet tones of Wayne "Laughing Boy" Hussey.

Behold the fantasy-life website of xVitality Sciences.
"Prophylaxia" sounds like a plant... a member of the Spurge family, perhaps, native to Madagascar, used in the manufacture of condoms. Evidently it "directly supplements circulating youth factors as the most natural approach to reversing aging." It is "all-natural and contains no artificial chemicals or drugs". Did you ever in all your puff see such an amateurish operation?
The site sprang into being fully-formed, in the way of Athene birthed from the head of Zeus... written in terms suggestive of long experience with administering Prophylaxia, ("Most patients experience no side effects"), and complete with artisanal hand-made diagrams displaying the benefits of treatment. In the course of its six-month existence it acquired no further information. Thus we never learn (chiz chiz) the exact identities of the private clinics in Lima and Kiev that had signed up up to infuse Prophylaxia.

But we know that they did exist because they are mentioned in a promotional puff for xVitality. It alludes to clinical tests and generally bolsters the impression of a history of steady operation:
We've adapted a common clinical biologic for this purpose with an excellent safety profile and have completed the first in-human clinical trial. We're partnering with two clinics overseas to provide our product towards the end of 2015. Our treatment would be legal but not marketable in the US as an off-label treatment.
Otherwise, xVitality Sciences maintained a low profile before vanishing in a cloud of vapourware at the end of 2015. Rather than the usual start-up track of incorporating their hobby into an actual company and hitting up venture capitalists for funds, the entrepreneurs (Jesse Karmazin* and Howard Yee**) confined their promotional activities to spamming on Disqus and bulletin boards, waiting for topics faintly related to aging as an excuse to pimp the now-vanished website, make promises about rejuvenation, and plead for interest and funding.
Familiar trope in SF
Elsewhere we learn that the "all-natural" product rebranded as Prophylaxia is human blood. Natural, yes, but my people don't do that any more. Karmazin had started with the familiar stem-cell cargo-cult and added the magical-thinking principle that plasma transfusions will transfer some of the donor's youthfulness and stimulate the recipient's stem-cells, therefore rejuvenation.

There is some limited support for this from experiments in the 1860s, the golden age of vivisection, where researchers were sewing rats together -- creating conjoined twins -- so that their blood circulations merged in a single vascular system. Perhaps the idea was that the conjoined entity would become a Rat King, a creature of majesty and arcane powers who would lead the human race into a new era of eternal darkness.
Or else it was just what researchers did back then.

There was a revival of enthusiasm for rodent quilting in the 1950s-70s, with claims that when older rats were stitched up with younger ones they benefited from the propinquity... apart from the 10% or so that died from the operation or the 20%-30% that died of ‘parabiotic disease’. It was one of those avenues of research where results became progressively less positive as the studies became more rigorous. Then Amy Wagers announced that major surgery was unnecessary, and that the vitality-transfering element was injectable, being the growth factor GDF-11... though attempts to replicate her results failed dismally. Also there was this.

The entertaining coda of the xVitality debacle, with all its amateurish glory and fabulatory self-delusion (and CamelCase typography), is that the founder is back for a second bite of the cherry. Dr Karmazin has scrubbed off all trace of xVitality from his LinkedIn entry and FB account, and picked Ambrosia as the name for his new company. It has received a fair bit of attention around the Intertubes, what with its "clinical trial" that lacks control cases but charges a $8000 fee for "subjects". Tech billionaires, concerned that youth is wasted on the young and that the poors are consuming valuable resources --
“It’s this extremely abundant therapeutic that’s just sitting in blood banks”
-- are recruiting Dr Kamarzin to fill the role of Renfield. The prospect of Peter Thiel sinking millions into this cargo-cult (blithely sanguine that having won the golden ticket in the dot-com lottery, and being a Nietzschean Übermensch, he is as much an expert on biology as he was on nautical engineering), it is enough for one to wish Karmazin the best of luck.

Meanwhile the xVitality twatterstream is still extant, a monument to entrepreneurial play-acting: wishful thinking and self-confidence in a Platonic form, untainted by commercial or clinical activity. Enjoy the torrent of inspirational-poster platitudes before it goes the way of the website.

* Karmazin records on his LinkedIn entry that while at Stanford he took a course in Creating a Startup I (STRAMGT 356). Dude, they owe you your money back.

** Howard Yee had previously staked out domains for "eternitychocolate,com" and "" and "". I have no idea what the business plan was there.

Alternative title:
There's no turning back now; My fate is traced in blood


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I want to know why there is no chiz chiz LLC, reaping huge rewards for its exclusive clientele.

Purrhaps A.K. could testify?

rhwombat said...

ittdgy: It's Chiz Chiz Ltd., incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, Prop N. Molesworth Esk.