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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.

Just What We Need: Slicker Infertility Marketingby Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest contributorOctober 21st, 2016A serial tech entrepreneur launches a new start-up called Prelude with a hipster-chic website downplaying the many unknowns of egg freezing.
California stem cell agency approves $30 million to fast-track clinical trialsby David JensenThe Sacramento BeeOctober 19th, 2016Dubbed the new “pitching machine,” CIRM on Wednesday completed creation of a $30 million effort to dramatically speed up FDA approval of stem cell therapies.
Social science: Include social equity in California Biohubby Science FARE (Feminist Anti-Racist Equity) Collective: Jessica Cussins, Kate Weatherford Darling, Ugo Edu, Laura Mamo, Jenny Reardon & Charis ThompsonNatureOctober 19th, 20165–7% of the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative's Biohub health-research budget should be used to design and monitor goals of justice and equality from the outset, or social inequalities could limit the project's potential.
The Misleading Promise of I.V.F. for Women Over 40by Jane E. BrodyNew York TimesOctober 17th, 2016Miriam Zoll pushes back on the optimistic picture that the fertility industry paints for consumers that masks over 20 million failed IVF cycles.
Meet Prelude Fertility, The $200 Million Startup That Wants To Stop The Biological Clock[citing CGS' Marcy Darnovsky]by Miguel HelftForbesOctober 17th, 2016Despite short and long-term risks with egg retrieval, fertility companies target young people as a new demographic, putting profits ahead of safety.
Mouse eggs made from skin cells in a dishby David CyranoskiNatureOctober 17th, 2016Research breakthrough sparks debate over the prospect of using stem cell techniques to produce synthetic human eggs from body tissue.
Can a DNA Test Really Predict Opiate Addiction?by Zachary SiegelThe Daily BeastOctober 15th, 2016By combining patient genetic profiles with clinical observations, tech company claims its test is 93% accurate without peer-reviewed evidence.
DNA database could help predict your disease — then get you firedby David LazarusLos Angeles TimesOctober 14th, 2016The "Precision Medicine" project of introducing big data into healthcare comes with a host of risks for individuals and communities, including privacy and genetic discrimination.
Advocacy group anecdotes present one-sided picture of genetic testing for breast cancerby Mary Chris JaklevicHealth News ReviewOctober 13th, 2016The push for BRCA genes screening often glosses over the limited foresight given by testing, the corporate ties of advocates, and the lack of support for women who test positive.
Science group seeks to guide Silicon Valley philanthropistsby Erika Check HaydenNature NewsOctober 13th, 2016The Science Philanthropy Alliance works with wealthy individuals, including the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, on a confidential basis to advise them on funding basic research.
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