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.
Innovation and Equity in an Age of Gene Editingby Charis Thompson, Ruha Benjamin, Jessica Cussins and Marcy Darnovsky, The GuardianMay 19th, 2015As experts gather in Atlanta to discuss the rights and wrongs of editing human genomes, four of the attendees explain why it is vital to put social justice at the heart of the debate.
The Genome Engineering Revolutionby Ryan Clarke and James Hyun, Tech CrunchMay 13th, 2015The CRISPR-cas9 system makes gene editing in many organisms and cells — like our own egg, sperm or embryo — more efficient, accessible and simple than ever before.
Science is Often Flawed. It's Time we Embraced That.by Julia Belluz and Steven Hoffman, VoxMay 13th, 2015That science can fail, however, shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. It's a human construct, after all. And if we simply accepted that science often works imperfectly, we'd be better off.
Microbiomes Raise Privacy Concernsby Ewen Callaway, Nature NewsMay 11th, 2015Call it a ‘gut print’. The collective DNA of the microbes that colonize a human body can uniquely identify someone, researchers have found, raising privacy issues.