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About the Biotech & Pharma Industries & Human Biotechnology


The fast-growing biotech industry is playing a dominant role in shaping the development, marketing and use of human biotechnologies. Like the pharmaceutical industry, it profits by developing products aimed at treating disease and restoring health. Although some biotech products and activities are socially and ethically controversial, the industry as a whole tends to oppose public oversight and regulation.

This situation is complicated by increasingly blurred lines between private biotechnology companies and university researchers, between perceptions of serving the public interest and the profit imperatives of private enterprise, and between research and commercialization.

In recent decades, the US Congress has enacted policies that allow controversial patents (such as those on gene sequences and human tissues), and that encourage closer university-corporate relations. These policies have led to a rapid commercialization of biology and medicine, and to a significant number of university-based researchers with financial ties to private companies. Such arrangements allow them to maintain the appearance of serving the public interest while pursuing careers in the private sector.

Private industry is an important player in the development of human biotechnologies. But the lack of a financially independent counterweight like the one that public universities used to provide makes effective oversight and responsible regulation imperative. Given the impact of the biotech industry on public debate, public policy, and all of our lives, its interests must be transparent.



Why we need a law to prevent genetic discriminationby Yvonne Bombard, Ronald Cohn & Stephen SchererThe Globe and Mail [Canada]September 19th, 2016After unanimous passage through Canada's Senate, Bill S-201 on genetic data is now presented before the House of Commons.
Human Chimera Research’s Huge (and Thorny) Potentialby Paul KnoepflerWiredSeptember 19th, 2016Stem cell researcher notes a range of ethical questions on the table if the NIH moves forward with lifting its research ban.
US toughens rules for clinical-trial transparencyby Sara ReardonNature NewsSeptember 16th, 2016Under new HHS rule, researchers must register information on the design and results of trials within 21 days of enrolling their first patient-- regardless of outcome.
‘Motherless babies!’ How to create a tabloid science headline in five easy stepsby Gretchen VogelScience MagazineSeptember 14th, 2016A modest research report on cell division is translated as a hyperbolic breakthrough. Gretchen Vogel critiques the flaws of hype-driven, click-bait journalism.
Peru Fails to Deliver for Indigenous Womenby Shena CavalloopenDemocracySeptember 12th, 2016~300,000 poor, rural, and indigenous people forcibly sterilized according to state "quotas", but public prosecutor says no "crimes against humanity" charges for state actors.
When Evolution Fights Back Against Genetic Engineeringby Brooke BorelThe AtlanticSeptember 12th, 2016Gene drive raises irreversible threats to ecosystems and unpredictable consequences that cannot be vetted in controlled lab settings.
Seeking to Join Editas, Intellia, CRISPR Therapeutics Makes Long Awaited IPO Pushby Ben FidlerXconomySeptember 12th, 2016Emmanuelle Charpentier’s biotech firm files to go public (~$90M), joining other CRISPR-Cas9 co-discoverers: Jennifer Doudna (Intellia, $108M, 5/2016) and Feng Zhang (Editas, $98M, 2/2016).
DNA Dragnet: In Some Cities, Police Go From Stop-and-Frisk to Stop-and-Spitby Lauren KirchnerProPublicaSeptember 12th, 2016Private police databases expanding with DNA “voluntarily” collected from minors, without oversight or right to challenge.
Will Genetic Engineering Really Change Everything Forever? [Video Review]by Elliot HosmanSeptember 8th, 2016The hype surrounding CRISPR gene editing and a future of designer babies is on playback with a popular new video. Is its optimism justified? And who decides what’s inevitable?
Scandals Waiting to Happen: Institutional Conflicts of Interest at California Stem Cell Agencyby Pete ShanksSeptember 8th, 2016StemCells Inc., which has received tens of millions of dollars from the state-funded stem cell agency, paid its president a hefty sum when he joined its board a week after resigning his position.
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