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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.



Open-Source DNAby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesOctober 31st, 2014Who are the players to watch in the growing trend to “free” our genetic data, and what does it mean to participate?
Geneticists Tap Human Knockoutsby Ewen CallawayNature NewsOctober 29th, 2014Sequenced genomes reveal mutations that disable single genes and can point to new drugs.
Cambrian Genomics CEO: We’re Going to Design Every Human on a Computer and Make Your Poop Smell Like Bananasby Chris O'BrienVenture BeatOctober 29th, 2014Austen Heinz: His vision for the future will either thrill you or leave you fearing for the future of humanity. There’s not really any room in the middle.
What Good is a Scientific Meeting If You Dismiss the Science?by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesOctober 29th, 2014The Science and Technology Committee of the UK Parliament held an evidence hearing last week to examine the science and proposed regulation of so-called “mitochondrial donation,” or “3-person IVF,” but huge swaths of evidence were widely dismissed.
Cloning Whistleblower: Little Changed in S. Koreaby Youkyung LeeAssociated PressOctober 24th, 2014The whistle-blower who exposed breakthrough cloning research as a devastating fake says South Korea is still dominated by the values that allowed science fraudster Hwang Woo-suk to become an almost untouchable national hero.
The Betatrophin Bluesby Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogOctober 24th, 2014A 2013 paper from a Harvard lab raised expectations about diabetes breakthroughs, but it's now clear that its central argument is incorrect.
Silicon Valley’s Egg-Freezing Perk Is Bad for People Across the Boardby Marcy DarnovskyRH Reality CheckOctober 23rd, 2014Egg freezing is an individualized, questionably effective technical fix for a fundamentally social problem.
Minister Sparks Backlash for Suggesting Foreigners Could Undergo 'Three-Parent Babies' IVF Treatment in Britainby Ben Riley-SmithTelegraphOctober 23rd, 2014MPs and peers from across the political divide raised fears the move could create a new front of health tourism, with foreigners coming to the UK to circumvent bans in their home countries.
For $100,000, You Can Clone Your Dogby Josh DeanBloomberg BusinessweekOctober 22nd, 2014Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, infamous for fabricating claims about cloning a human embryo, now uses somatic cell nuclear transfer to clone people's dogs.
Human-Subjects Research: The Ethics Squadby Elie DolginNatureOctober 21st, 2014Bioethicists are setting up consultancies for research — but some scientists question whether they are needed.
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