Liz Parrish isn’t your average CEO.

A passionate advocate for change, her company BioViva is leading the fight for healthy longevity with pioneering gene therapies targeting Alzheimer’s, sarcopenia and even aging itself. Parrish dreams big, but she’s a woman of action. She’s even demonstrated her commitment by testing cutting-edge therapies on herself. Could her efforts change how we think about aging? Is gene therapy the future or are we moving too fast? We caught up with the woman herself to find out more.

Let’s start with the big news. BioViva has treated its first patient. During your Reddit AMA we found out this brave soul was you. Being patient zero is extremely commendable. What made you decide to put yourself forward?

For me it was an issue of ethics. As we started to publicise what we were doing a lot of volunteers came forward, but it didn’t sit well with me. I felt if I was going to lead the company and say “we’re here and we’re going to do this”, it made sense that I came up and actually got behind it 100%. It didn’t feel like an option, which is why it does not feel exceptional or brave. I’m just an average person. It was the right thing to do.

A great deal of science in the past has been forwarded by a certain amount of self experimentation. Is it an under-appreciated aspect of science?

We have become a very risk adverse society.There are dangers with any new technology. Even if there isn’t anything wrong with a therapy, the patient might be too sick already to benefit. You can imagine if we moved forward with patient zero and something went wrong. It would have been devastating to me, the patient and the company, it was one reason why I chose to test on myself first.

Could you tell me a bit more about what two treatments you underwent and what procedures were involved?

Yes. One was a myostatin inhibitor injected into my leg muscles. 4 muscles in the front and then the hamstrings. It is not painless, but not bad if this is a curative treatment. The hTERT telomerase induction therapy was used systemically and locally. When more comfortable methods are made, we will adopt them.

So you used an AAV associated viral vector for treatment. What does it target?

The great thing is you can use specific serotypes for different cells. This means you can target dividing as well as non-dividing cells. We opted for a broad spectrum treatment by using these serotypes.

An adeno-associated virus 2 capsid – the protein coat containing DNA