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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.



Staying Ahead of Technology’s Curvesby Doug HillBoston GlobeAugust 21st, 2016Embracing new technologies with extraordinary disruptive powers without trying to anticipate and prepare for their potential consequences is now, more than ever, a bad idea.
These New Stem Cell Treatments Are Expensive — and Unprovenby Michael HiltzikLos Angeles TimesAugust 19th, 2016"Stem cells have become a medical buzzword," Paul Knoepfler notes. "I see a lot of businesses using direct marketing to patients to take advantage of that."
Hacking life: Scientists ‘recode’ DNA in step toward lab-made organismsby Sharon BegleySTATAugust 18th, 2016Recoded organisms could have talents evolution hasn’t yet created. For instance, they could make proteins that do not exist in nature, including drugs.
In CRISPR Fight, Co-Inventor Says Broad Institute Misled Patent Officeby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewIs an email between competing researchers a smoking gun in the billion dollar battle over patent rights for gene editing?
ExAC Project Pins Down Rare Gene VariantsNature EditorialAugust 17th, 2016A new study found only 9 of 192 variants were actually linked to pathogenic disease despite ongoing use in diagnosis and treatment.
In the Fight for Our Genes, Could We Lose What Makes Us Human?by Ziyaad BhoratopenDemocracyAugust 17th, 2016The rapid commercialization of genetics threatens human dignity as our biology is exposed to society's political economy.
CRISPR patent fight: The legal bills are soaringby Sharon BegleySTATAugust 16th, 2016Editas has already spent $10.9M in 2016, but many in the CRISPR field wonder privately why Broad and UC Berkeley have not reached a settlement.
Illumina Would Like You to Sequence More DNA, Pleaseby Sarah ZhangWIREDAugust 15th, 2016The leader of the DNA sequencing market has a start-up accelerator program to find new applications for its technology.
Athletes are keeping their distance from a genetic test for concussion risksby Rebecca RobbinsSTATAugust 15th, 2016Sports competitors, insurers, and researchers are cautious about the privacy and geneticization issues behind testing for "athletic" genes.
Ethical questions raised in search for Sardinian centenarians' secretsby Stephanie KirchgaessnerThe GuardianAugust 12th, 2016Samples from residents of Sardinia’s "Blue Zone," who are famed for longevity, have been sold to a for-profit British research firm.
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