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About Race & Human Biotechnology


Racist ideas and practices have marred the history of science, with low points including the eugenics movement and medical experiments on vulnerable populations. Public awareness and social oversight are needed to ensure that these sorts of occurrences are not repeated.

Today, some geneticists and biomedical researchers are searching for genetic differences between racial groups, raising concerns that these biological variations may be used to justify inequitable outcomes that are created by social, environmental, and economic forces. However well-meaning, this could lead to gross abuse.

Genetic researchers have been particularly interested in indigenous peoples. Their reproductive insularity has led to a genetic homogeneity that can facilitate searches for correlations between specific genes and phenotypic traits. Many indigenous people object to this work for a variety of practical and ethical reasons, including the patenting and commercialization of genetic information, the lack of fully informed consent, the potential for genetic discrimination, and the disproportionate allocation of public funds to genetic research rather than to direct health care and prevention programs.



Medical schools must play a role in addressing racial disparitiesby Jocelyn Stried, Margaret Hayden, Rahul Nayajk & Cameron NuttSTATJuly 25th, 2016A legacy of racial injustice has shaped the institutions that train our doctors. This inequity recapitulates itself in medical curricula.
Taking Genomic Data Globalby Elizabeth WoykeMIT Technology ReviewJuly 25th, 2016Precision medicine startups are now focusing on Asia.
The Dark Secrets of this Now-Empty Island in Maineby David JesterAtlas ObscuraJuly 14th, 2016Malaga Island was home to a fishing community. But in 1911, a racist pseudoscience and greedy politicians changed all that.
No One Should Edit The Genes Of Embryos To Make Babies, NIH Chief Says[originally published as "At Gene Editing Meeting, Scientists Discuss God, Racism, Designer Babies"]by Nidhi SubbaramanBuzzFeedJuly 14th, 2016Opponents of germline gene editing have strong concerns about both the safety and social consequences of altering reproductive cells.
These People Were Likely Victims of a Swedish Eugenics Institutionby Jordan G. TeicherSlateJuly 5th, 2016A photographer highlights the photos of eugenics victims whose stories have been ignored over the years.
A DNA Test Won’t Explain Elizabeth Warren’s Ancestryby Matt MillerSlateJune 29th, 2016Could more data that would improve the precision of ancestry tests? Probably not — in fact, it might get more complicated.
Read Sonia Sotomayor’s Atomic Bomb of a Dissent Slamming Racial Profiling and Mass Imprisonmentby Mark Joseph SternSlateJune 20th, 2016Her dissent explains the extent to which police violate predominantly black and brown people's bodily integrity during "stop and frisk" procedures.
Did Infamous Tuskegee Study Cause Lasting Mistrust of Doctors Among Blacks?by Aaron E. CarrollThe New York TimesJune 17th, 2016The Tuskegee Study was a horrific instance of racism and injustice in medical research, but racism is a systemic condition of US health care, not an isolated event.
The False Promise of DNA Testingby Matthew SchaerThe AtlanticJune 1st, 2016The forensic technique is becoming ever more common—and ever less reliable.
Tales of African-American History Found in DNAby Carl ZimmerThe New York TimesMay 27th, 2016Can genetic analyses can map histories of African American migration, slavery, and health? Critics argue such histories and identities cannot be reduced to genotype.
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