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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.



New Poll Finds Only 18% of British Adults in Support of "3-Person IVF"by Jessica CussinsBiopolitcal TimesSeptember 15th, 2014A newly released poll finds substantial reluctance among British public to change UK law to allow the genetic modification of future generations.
Life is Randomby Cailin O’ConnorSlateSeptember 11th, 2014Biologists now realize that “nature vs. nurture” misses the importance of noise.
New Details Emerge on Retracted STAP Papersby David CyranoskiNature News BlogSeptember 11th, 2014New leaked e-mails showing the comments of referees for Science and Nature provide more insight into the saga of the STAP papers.
Revolving Door Policy Tightened at California Stem Cell Agency by David JensenCalifornia Stem Cell ReportSeptember 10th, 2014Directors of the California stem cell agency approved a measure aimed at easing conflicts of interest involving employees who may seek employment with recipients of the agency’s largess.
Next-Generation Stem Cells Cleared for Human Trialby David CyranoskiNatureSeptember 10th, 2014A Japanese patient with a debilitating eye disease is about to become the first person to be treated with induced pluripotent stem cells.
Genetic Testing Brings Families Together, and Sometimes Tears Them Apartby Julia BelluzVoxSeptember 9th, 2014What 23andMe doesn't promote with its direct-to-consumer genetic tests is that the results can sometimes be painful, especially when users aren't looking for them in the first place.
Genetic Rights and Wrongsby EditorialNatureSeptember 9th, 2014Australia’s decision to uphold a patent on biological material is in danger of hampering the development of diagnostic tests.
1 in 27 Babies Conceived Using IVF in 2012The Yomiuri ShimbunSeptember 9th, 2014There has been a sharp increase from 10 years ago in the number of babies in Japan conceived by in vitro fertilization, according to the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
A Manifesto for Playing God with Human Evolutionby Carl ElliottNew ScientistSeptember 8th, 2014Fancy living forever, or uploading your mind to the net? The Proactionary Imperative embraces transhumanist dreams, but reminds why we need medical ethics.
'Smart Genes' Prove Elusiveby Ewen CallawayNatureSeptember 8th, 2014Scientists looking for the genes underlying intelligence are in for a slog. One of the largest, most rigorous genetic studies of human cognition has turned up utterly inconclusive findings.
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