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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.



What Good is a Scientific Meeting If You Dismiss the Science?by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesOctober 29th, 2014The Science and Technology Committee of the UK Parliament held an evidence hearing last week to examine the science and proposed regulation of so-called “mitochondrial donation,” or “3-person IVF,” but huge swaths of evidence were widely dismissed.
Cloning Whistleblower: Little Changed in S. Koreaby Youkyung LeeAssociated PressOctober 24th, 2014The whistle-blower who exposed breakthrough cloning research as a devastating fake says South Korea is still dominated by the values that allowed science fraudster Hwang Woo-suk to become an almost untouchable national hero.
The Betatrophin Bluesby Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogOctober 24th, 2014It’s unclear what the fate of the 2013 Betatrophin paper will be moving forward given that its central argument is incorrect and even the naming of the molecule “Betatrophin” is indeed perhaps not appropriate any more.
Silicon Valley’s Egg-Freezing Perk Is Bad for People Across the Boardby Marcy DarnovskyRH Reality CheckOctober 23rd, 2014Egg freezing is an individualized, questionably effective technical fix for a fundamentally social problem.
Minister Sparks Backlash for Suggesting Foreigners Could Undergo 'Three-Parent Babies' IVF Treatment in Britainby Ben Riley-SmithTelegraphOctober 23rd, 2014Jane Ellison says she expects overseas patients to receive controversial IVF treatment if Parliament approves legislation in move politicians say could trigger new health tourism.
For $100,000, You Can Clone Your Dogby Josh DeanBloomberg BusinessweekOctober 22nd, 2014Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, infamous for his announcement of the first cloning of a human embryo that turned out to be fabricated, now uses somatic cell nuclear transfer to clone people's beloved dogs.
Human-Subjects Research: The Ethics Squadby Elie DolginNatureOctober 21st, 2014Bioethicists are setting up consultancies for research — but some scientists question whether they are needed.
Technology and Inequalityby David RotmanMIT Technology ReviewOctober 21st, 2014Profound wealth disparities in Silicon Valley highlight the "new world order" in which technological development exacerbates inequality instead of diminishing it.
Procedure on Paralyzed Man Stirs Hope and Cautionby Benedict CareyThe New York TimesOctober 21st, 2014The case of a Polish man who was paralyzed from the chest down until receiving a novel nerve-regeneration treatment has stirred as much excitement on the Internet as it has extreme caution among many experts.
Twins Born Through IVF 'More Likely to Suffer Problems'by Sarah KnaptonTelegraphOctober 20th, 2014Giving birth to twins, as opposed to singletons, through fertility treatment substantially increases the risk to both mother and children, new research finds.
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