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About US Federal Policies & Human Biotechnology


Federal regulations on most human biotechnologies are inadequate, falling far short of the kind of comprehensive approach that is needed. This situation is due to the unique social and policy challenges posed by human biotechnologies, to the anti-regulatory environment of recent years, and to the divisive politics and religious beliefs that accompany issues involving human embryos.

One regulatory failure is Congress's inability to pass a law prohibiting human reproductive cloning. Nine in ten Americans oppose it, as does every member of Congress and nearly every reputable scientist. Bills that would prohibit reproductive cloning have been introduced several times, but have failed because of disagreements over research cloning.

Another failure is assisted reproduction's scant regulation and oversight. Despite numerous reported abuses and billions of dollars in revenues, federal oversight remains limited to collecting data on success rates.

Medical gene transfer (also called gene therapy) is slightly different. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are supposed to oversee each clinical trial. But researchers have often ignored this requirement, as revealed most dramatically after the death of 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger in a gene transfer experiment.

The most publicized aspect of federal biotechnology policy have been the limitation on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research that was imposed by President Bush in 2001 and removed by President Obama in 2009.



Deaths in CAR-T Immune-Therapy Trials Haunt Promising New Cancer Treatmentby Emily MullinMIT Technology ReviewDecember 1st, 2016Companies are racing to develop a new type of cancer therapy, but scientists are still assessing its safety.
How Will Trump Use Science to Further His Political Agenda?by Sarah ZhangThe AtlanticDecember 1st, 2016We have a president-elect who appears to believe in his genetic superiority, with a chief strategist who has been reported to believe the same.
Human Gene Editing: A Timeline of CRISPR Cover StoriesWith recent gene editing tools, a number of high-profile media are featuring CRISPR on their covers and front pages. We gather highlights since early 2015, along with opinion polls, TV shows, and editorial board statements.
Review of Blame: A Novelby Abby Lippman, Biopolitical Times guest contributorNovember 28th, 2016Blame is especially important for those unfamiliar with the range of ethical, social, legal, and political issues raised by applications of what is learned in a lab. While a work of fiction, it is definitely not science-fiction
Obama’s Science Advisors Are Worried About Future CRISPR Terrorismby Daniel OberhausVICE MotherboardNovember 21st, 2016PCAST warn that under current legislation, there is no room for rapid response to threats and misuse, recommending improved biosurveillance as a solution.
Why the Deaf Community Fears President Trumpby Sara NovicVICENovember 18th, 2016According to his biographer, Trump subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development and the superiority of certain genes — an echo of eugenics.
The Sudden, Inevitable Rewiring of the American Leftby Andrew BurmonInverseNovember 18th, 2016It's not clear which direction the Trump administration will be pushed by conservative evangelicals like Mike Pence and technophile wildcards like Peter Thiel.
Who Will Advise Trump on Science?by Ed YongThe AtlanticNovember 18th, 2016For 40 years, the Office of Science & Technology Policy has closely counseled the president, but its role in the new administration is unclear.
Abortion-By-Mail Study Outrages Opponentsby Phil GalewitzKQED California HealthlineNovember 16th, 2016A pilot study of telemedicine-based medical abortion demonstrates a welcome new option for women. Opponents of abortion find the concept deeply disturbing.
Seeding Doubt: How Self-Appointed Guardians of “Sound Science” Tip the Scales Toward Industryby Liza GrossThe InterceptNovember 15th, 2016Sense About Science has downplayed concerns about industry-funded research and promoted science that favors private interests over public health.
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