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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.



From “the Dangerous Womb” to a More Complex Realityby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesAugust 21st, 2014Heightened attention to epigenetics, while important, also carries the danger of being used to place undue blame on pregnant women. A special issue in Science on parenting provides a more complex overview of parental and societal influence.
"We're All One of Troy's Babies": A Celebration of Troy Dusterby Victoria Massie, Biopolitical Times guest contributorAugust 21st, 2014On Friday, August 15th, I was one among a multitude of people finding a seat in Booth Auditorium in Boalt Hall for the event “Celebrating Troy Duster.”
Microbiology: Microbiome Science Needs a Healthy Dose of Scepticismby William P. HanageNature CommentAugust 20th, 2014To guard against hype, those interpreting research on the body's microscopic communities should ask five questions.
Troy Duster’s Garden of Plugged-In Scholarship, and How it Grewby Barry BergmanNewsCenterAugust 20th, 2014An overview of the CGS co-sponsored event to honor Troy Duster's landmark works on the racial implications of drug policies and genetic research, role as adviser and friend, and fierce activism.
High-Risk Brain Research Wins NSF Backingby Sara ReardonNature NewsAugust 18th, 2014The US National Science Foundation is supporting new research into the properties of neural circuits.
Cancer and the Secrets of Your Genesby Theodora RossThe New York TimesAugust 16th, 2014The recent discovery that mutations in a gene called PALB2 greatly increase the risk of breast cancer is one of the biggest developments since the discovery in the ’90s of the role of mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
Society: Don't Blame the Mothersby Sarah S. Richardson, Cynthia R. Daniels, Matthew W. Gillman, Janet Golden, Rebecca Kukla, Christopher Kuzawa & Janet Rich-EdwardsNature CommentAugust 13th, 2014There is a long history of society blaming mothers for the ill health of their children. The latest wave in this discussion flows from studies of epigenetics.
Career Women are Having ‘Egg-Freezing’ Partiesby Jane RidleyNew York PostAugust 13th, 2014Dubbed “Let’s Chill,” a first-of-its-kind “egg-freezing party” was sponsored by a company called EggBanxx, which is cutting the cost of egg freezing and marketing it to young go-getters.
Biologists Choose Sides In Safety Debate Over Lab-Made Pathogensby Nell GreenfieldBoyceNPRAugust 13th, 2014A smoldering debate about whether researchers should ever deliberately create superflu strains and other risky germs in the interest of science has flared once again.
Could a Genetic Test Predict the Risk for Suicide?by Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewAugust 13th, 2014Two groups of researchers are claiming they can use DNA tests to predict who will attempt suicide, and one startup company will begin offering a suicide risk test to doctors next month for patients taking antidepressants.
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