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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.



Obama Precision Medicine Plan Would Create Huge U.S. Genetic Biobankby Jocelyn KaiserScience InsiderJanuary 29th, 2015The proposed precision medicine initiative would center on a huge new biobank containing medical records and genetic information for perhaps a million Americans.
‘Moonshot’ Medicine Will Let Us Downby Michael J. JoynerThe New York TimesJanuary 29th, 2015President Obama's new budget is expected to include hundreds of millions of dollars for so-called precision medicine. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to make most of us healthier.
Stem Cell Clinics, FDA, and Giant, Unapproved For-Profit Human Experimentsby Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogJanuary 27th, 2015The argument by for-profit clinics for stem cell deregulation and weakening of the FDA’s role in regulating stem cell products is a direct challenge to our system of science-based medicine.
Myriad Genetics Ending Patent Dispute on Breast Cancer Risk Testingby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesJanuary 27th, 2015The company has settled or is in the process of settling patent-infringement lawsuits it filed against other companies that now offer such testing.
Obama to Request Research Funding for Treatments Tailored to Patients’ DNAby Robert PearThe New York TimesJanuary 24th, 2015President Obama will seek hundreds of millions of dollars for a new initiative to develop medical treatments tailored to genetic and other characteristics of individual patients.
Key Questions About the Social and Ethical Implications of Nuclear Genome Transfer or “3-Person IVF” Techniquesby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJanuary 22nd, 2015As the Institute of Medicine launches an official assessment over the next year, here are eight questions to consider.
Institute of Medicine to Study the Social Policy and Ethics of “3-Person IVF”by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJanuary 22nd, 2015The FDA held a public meeting last year to assess the safety and efficacy of nuclear genome transfer for the prevention of transmission of mitochondrial diseases. Now it has asked the Institute of Medicine to consider the social and ethical issues.
UK May Be Poised for “Historic Mistake” on “3-Person IVF”by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJanuary 22nd, 2015A Parliamentary vote is expected as soon as February.
US Precision-Medicine Proposal Sparks Questionsby Sara ReardonNatureJanuary 22nd, 2015President Obama announced a "Precision Medicine Initiative" in his State of the Union address, but the White House is remaining tight-lipped about the details.
Scientists Develop Technique Aimed at Preventing Spread of Bio-Engineered Organismsby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesJanuary 21st, 2015Could genetically modified bacteria escape from a laboratory or fermentation tank and cause disease or ecological destruction? Two groups of scientists hope to use synthetic biology to prevent it from happening.
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