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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.



Synthetic Biology’s Second Worldby Andy BalmerPLOS Synbio CommunityMay 16th, 2016In the wake of a closed-door meeting of scientists to discuss the creation of a synthetic human genome, Balmer examines the formation of a second, secret world for synthetic biology in which decisions are made away from public scrutiny and governance.
Huntington’s disease: the new gene therapy that sufferers cannot affordby Dara MohammadiThe Guardian [UK]May 15th, 2016Scientists are working on genetic therapy treatments for Huntington's disease, which affects many families in South America, but it is a difficult and expensive endeavor.
Scientists Hold Secret Meeting to Consider Creating a Synthetic Human Genomeby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesMay 13th, 2016An invitation to the Harvard meeting said the primary goal “would be to synthesize a complete human genome in a cell line within a period of ten years.”
Top scientists hold closed meeting to discuss building a human genome from scratch[citing CGS' Marcy Darnovsky]by Ike SwetlitzSTATMay 13th, 2016If we can build a synthetic genome — and eventually, a creature — from the ground up, then what does it mean to be human?
Comment - Closed Harvard Meeting on Human Genome Synthesis[Press statement]May 13th, 2016A new low for scientific accountability, the semi-secret meeting looks like a move to privatize the current conversation about heritable genetic modification.
After rivals’ IPOs, will CRISPR Therapeutics go public or stay buttoned-down?by Damian GardeSTATMay 12th, 2016Like CRISPR Therapeutics, Intellia and Editas were once cagey about their development pipelines, but in documents filed prior to their IPOs, they had to spell out their work.
In science, follow the money – if you canby Paul D. Thacker & Curt FurbergThe Los Angeles TimesMay 12th, 2016Disclosure and restrictions do not harm academic freedom. These policies still allow scientists to pursue research, while ensuring that public health is not put at risk in service of corporate profit.
Three Cambridge startups are on a mission to fix broken genesby Robert WeismanThe Boston GlobeMay 11th, 2016Editas, Intellia & CRISPR Tx aim to cure diseases from cancer to blood disorders, but these would-be gene editors also must navigate a new round of ethical questions.
Indian woman gives birth at ~70 with help of IVFby Andrew MarszalThe Telegraph [UK]May 10th, 2016Post-menopausal births with donor eggs are increasingly common in India, where couples are often under intense social pressure to have children.
Gene Therapy’s First Out-and-Out Cure Is Hereby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewMay 6th, 2016A genetic therapy treatment for severe combined immune deficiency, also known as "bubble boy" disease, is now pending approval in Europe.
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