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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.



Synthetic biology goes for scaleby Joanna GlasnerReutersSeptember 2nd, 2014Synthetic biology, which uses engineered gene sequences to create new biological systems and devices, used to be a subject for futurists and sci-fi writers, but now is attracting large investments.
Stem cell industry's 'huge development' in Bay Areaby Stephanie M. LeeSan Francisco ChronicleAugust 29th, 2014Almost three years after Geron shut down the world's first clinical trial of a therapy using embryonic stem cells, Asterias, a subsidiary of the Alameda company BioTime, has permission to test for clinical efficacy.
Stem cell therapy a primitive artby Jill MargoFinancial ReviewAugust 27th, 2014A loophole in Australian regulations means people can be given stem cell therapy for virtually anything providing their own stem cells are harvested then used in the process, but much can go wrong.
Will Lowering The Price Of Genetic Testing Raise The Cost Of Medical Care?by Peter UbelForbesAugust 25th, 2014The days of affordable genomic sequencing are rapidly approaching. But will such testing bankrupt us?
Stem Cell Therapy Rogue Operators Charging Thousands for Useless or Dangerous Treatmentby Louise MilliganABCAugust 25th, 2014Rogue stem cell therapy operators are charging tens of thousands of dollars for treatments that are ineffectual or could even lead to more health problems and death, according to Australia's leading group of stem cell scientists.
Not-So-Personalized Medicine by Howard BrodyHooked: Ethics, Medicine, and PharmaAugust 23rd, 2014Personalized medicine may increasingly be useful in particular situations, but potential limits include false genetic determinism, high costs, and low predictive accuracy.
From “the Dangerous Womb” to a More Complex Realityby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesAugust 21st, 2014Heightened attention to epigenetics, while important, also carries the danger of being used to place undue blame on pregnant women. A special issue in Science on parenting provides a more complex overview of parental and societal influence.
"We're All One of Troy's Babies": A Celebration of Troy Dusterby Victoria Massie, Biopolitical Times guest contributorAugust 21st, 2014On Friday, August 15th, I was one among a multitude of people finding a seat in Booth Auditorium in Boalt Hall for the event “Celebrating Troy Duster.”
Microbiology: Microbiome Science Needs a Healthy Dose of Scepticismby William P. HanageNature CommentAugust 20th, 2014To guard against hype, those interpreting research on the body's microscopic communities should ask five questions.
Troy Duster’s Garden of Plugged-In Scholarship, and How it Grewby Barry BergmanNewsCenterAugust 20th, 2014An overview of the CGS co-sponsored event to honor Troy Duster's landmark works on the racial implications of drug policies and genetic research, role as adviser and friend, and fierce activism.
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