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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.



Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Announces $3 Billion Investment To Cure All Diseaseby Eyder PeraltaNPRSeptember 21st, 2016In partnership with the UCSF, UC Berkeley, and Stanford, the project intends to find scientific solutions for cures in the next 100 years. By comparison, the NIH spends over $31 billion annually.
Stem Cell Advocates and Critics Push Back on FDA Guidelinesby Alexandra OssolaScientific AmericanSeptember 21st, 2016At a public hearing on how strictly therapies should be regulated, testimony noted the number of unscrupulous clinics preying on desperate patients with unsubstantiated claims.
Patients Turn To San Diego Stem Cell Companies For Costly, Unproven Treatmentsby David WagnerKPBSSeptember 20th, 2016An investigation reveals a US stem cell company is referring patients to Mexico for non-FDA approved therapies that may be causing harm.
White House science advisers urge Justice Dept., judges to raise forensic standardsby Spencer S. HsuWashington PostSeptember 20th, 2016A new report cautions that widely used methods to trace complex DNA samples to criminal defendants fall short of scientific standards.
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.
Why Some Of India's Surrogate Moms Are Full Of Regretby Julie McCarthyNPRSeptember 18th, 2016Women employed as surrogates are rarely in a position to change the fundamental circumstance of their poverty because the payments simply aren't enough.
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.
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