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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.

UK Womb Transplants: 5 Ethical Issuesby Rachael RettnerLive ScienceOctober 5th, 2015A new UK clinical trial would expose both patient and developing fetus to autoimmune suppressants, use uteruses from deceased donors, and require that clinical patients have a "long-term partner", even though alternatives to this radical new technology exist.
Women Find a Fertility Test Isn't as Reliable as They'd Likeby Eliza BarclayNPROctober 5th, 2015Ovarian reserve tests are often ambiguous and can be misinterpreted; some fertility specialists worry that many women will be misled by their results.
New Psychiatric DNA Testing Is Unproven Groundby Susan Donaldson JamesNBC NewsOctober 4th, 2015Using genetic testing to determine the best course of psychiatric medications is an unproven proposition that may pose risks to patients' health.
CRISPR-Cpf1: Hype by Association by Elliot HosmanOctober 2nd, 2015Amid Nobel Prize predictions for CRISPR-Cas9 research, a new CRISPR associated protein takes the media and science community by storm, even as its utility remains unclear.
Ontario to Cover In-Vitro Fertilization Treatments[Canada]by Rob FergusonThe StarOctober 1st, 2015Health Minister Eric Hoskins’ announcement Thursday makes Ontario the second province to cover costly programs for what is increasingly seen as an important medical issue.
Informed Consent for Egg Donors Won’t Exist Unless We Track Donors’ Healthby Judy E. SternOur Bodies, Our BlogOctober 1st, 2015Recent academic articles raise concerns that conflicts of interest in ART provision may result in donors having an incomplete understanding of the risks of eggs retrieval procedures.
What 2,500 Sequenced Genomes Say about Humanity’s Futureby Lizzie WadeWiredSeptember 30th, 2015In light of geneticists’ attempts to find roots of racial health disparities, genomics has gone from being a “race-free” science to being a “race-positive” one.
Disgraced Scientist Clones Dogs, and Critics Question His Intentby Rob SteinNPRSeptember 30th, 2015South Korean company Sooam Biotech – started by “scientific pariah” Hwang Woo Suk – has cloned over 600 dogs for $100,000, but the process works only one-third of the time and is risky.
Gene-edited 'micropigs' to be sold as pets at Chinese instituteby David CyranoskiNature NewsSeptember 29th, 2015The pigs were originally engineered as models for human disease to test expensive drugs in smaller quantities, but the excitement for customizable pets may be serving as a distraction from synthetic biology's more pressing concerns and controversies.
Scientists Find Gene Editing with CRISPR Hard to Resist[quotes Marcy Darnovsky and Pete Shanks]by Cameron ScottHealthlineSeptember 29th, 2015CRISPR, a new technique for editing DNA, is so cheap and easy to use, we may be genetically engineering human embryos before we have time to decide if we should.
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