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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.



Setting the record straightby Martin H. JohnsonReproductive BioMedicine OnlineDecember 1st, 2016A senior editor writes about some shoddy scientific journalism on mitochondrial transfer that was published in his own journal.
"3-Parent Baby" Procedure Faces New Hurdleby Karen WeintraubScientific AmericanNovember 30th, 2016Mitochondrial disease can somehow creep back in, even if a mother’s mitochondria are virtually eliminated in an attempt to block inherited illnesses.
What’s behind those billion-dollar biotech deals? Often, a whole lot of hypeby Damian GardeSTATNovember 28th, 2016Huge deals are measured in "biobucks" — akin to lottery tickets that pay out if and when an experimental drug hits various milestones along the path to commercialization.
'No solid evidence' for IVF add-on successby Deborah CohenBBC PanoramaNovember 28th, 2016A year-long study finds that nearly all costly add-on treatments offered by UK fertility clinics are unreliable, misleading, and risky.
Should We Rewrite the Human Genome?by Alex HardingXconomyNovember 28th, 2016Critics worry that a synthetic human genome could be used in unethical ways. Unlike for clinical trials, there is no regulatory body for basic science research.
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
Do Your Family Members Have a Right to Your Genetic Code?by Emily MullinMIT Technology ReviewNovember 22nd, 2016When a woman gets her genome sequenced, questions about privacy arise for her identical twin sister.
Cambodia charges Australian nurse for running surrogacy clinicby Prak Chan ThulReutersNovember 21st, 2016As many South Asian countries take steps to clamp down on commercial surrogacy tourism, stakeholders are confronted with charges.
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.
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