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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.



Banks of Blood and Spermby Rebecca J. RosenThe AtlanticJuly 31st, 2014Kara W. Swanson, author of the new book Banking on the Body, on how the idea of a "bank" shapes the way people think about storing and distributing body fluids.
F.D.A. Acts on Lab Tests Developed In-Houseby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesJuly 31st, 2014The Food and Drug Administration announced that it will start regulating medical laboratory testing, saying that tests used to make important treatment decisions must be vetted before they go into use.
Google Wants to Create a Map of What a Healthy Human Body Looks Likeby George Dvorskyio9July 25th, 2014Called the Baseline Project, it's different from other mass medical and genomic projects in that it's seeking to collect much larger and broader sets of new data.
Making Sense of the BRAINby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJuly 24th, 2014As criticisms of the brain projects on both sides of the Atlantic ramp up, what lessons can be learned from the successes and failures of the Human Genome Project?
Failures and Risks in Biosafety Regulationby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJuly 24th, 2014Accidents at CDC and elsewhere point up the difficulties in regulating potentially dangerous releases of genetically modified organisms, which scientists are, quite responsibly, discussing.
Proposed Gene Technology Could Alter Organisms in Wildby Carolyn Y. JohnsonBoston GlobeJuly 17th, 2014Scientists say that this use of the new gene-editing technology could lead to inadvertent species extinctions, new genes spreading through the environment in unexpected ways, and unforeseen ecological ripple effects.
The Wild West of Zoning: Go Ahead, Create DNA-Altered Glow-in-the-Dark Roses in SoMa. Nobody’s Watching.by Zelda Bronstein48 HillsJuly 11th, 2014Nobody in the San Francisco Planning Department seems to know - or care - that a startup company is making DNA-altered glow-in-the-dark roses in SoMa.
The Perfect 46: A “Science Factual” Film about our Near Futureby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJuly 10th, 2014A new science fiction film called “a sort of prequel to Gattaca” highlights the rise and fall of a genetic startup that analyzes people’s genomes to assess their ability to produce disease-free children.
A Paragraph in Slow Motion: Three-Person IVF in The New York Timesby George Estreich, Biopolitical Times guest contributorJuly 10th, 2014A close look at the rhetoric used to justify experimental technologies, and particularly at the way reasonable objections are dismissed.
Mom's Environment During Pregnancy can Affect her Grandchildrenby Jocelyn KaiserScienceJuly 10th, 2014The finding offers some of the strongest evidence yet that a mother’s environment during pregnancy can alter the expression of DNA in ways that are passed on to future generations.
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