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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.



The Collapse of a Dangerous Analogy: Or, why mitochondria are much more than batteries by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesSeptember 29th, 2014Amid a flood of new evidence that mitochondria impact an individual’s traits, the editors at New Scientist have made a “U-turn” on “three-parent babies.” Their new conclusion: “It’s more messy than we thought.”
Kaiser Permanente's Genetic Database Is Boon to Medical Researchby Emily AnthesBloomberg BusinessweekSeptember 25th, 2014The health network has accumulated genetic data on more than 210,000 members.
The Stupidity of the 'Smart Gene'by Jessica CussinsHuffington PostSeptember 25th, 2014Now that “one of the largest, most rigorous genetic studies of human cognition” has effectively turned up "nothing," can we finally put the notion of “smart genes” behind us?
Women Better Informed About Prenatal Genetic Testing Choose Fewer TestsNews MedicalSeptember 25th, 2014A clinical trial led by UC San Francisco has found that when pregnant women are educated about their choices on prenatal genetic testing, the number of tests actually drops.
White House Issues New Regulations for Dangerous Biological Researchby Donald G. McNeilThe New York TimesSeptember 24th, 2014The Obama administration issued new guidelines intended to strengthen the oversight of federally funded biology research that could inadvertently produce bioweapons.
Genetic Testing for All Women? Not a Solution to the Breast Cancer Epidemicby  Karuna JaggarThe Huffington PostSeptember 24th, 2014The recommendation that all women over age 30 be screened for BRCA mutations fails to recognize the significant limitations and harms of mass genetic testing in the current health care environment.
Nobel Laureate: Big Data and Full-Genome Analysis not all they’re Cracked up to beby Mohit Kumar JollyThe ConversationSeptember 23rd, 2014Walter Gilbert explains why whole genome sequencing is not accurate for medical diagnosis.
If Synthetic Biology Lets us Play God, we Need RulesZócalo Public SquareSeptember 23rd, 2014Soon we could be able to program DNA with the same ease we program computers. What new responsibilities will be imposed on us?
FBI Plans Rapid DNA Dragnetby Aliya SternsteinNextgovSeptember 23rd, 2014The FBI is preparing to accelerate the collection of DNA profiles for the government's massive new biometric identification database.
Can a DNA Test Reveal if You’re an Indigenous Australian?by David WeisbrotThe AgeSeptember 23rd, 2014An Australian Senator recently created controversy by claiming in her first speech to Parliament that going back six generations, she was related to a renowned Tasmanian Aboriginal leader.
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