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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.



DIY sperm test to hit the market this fallby Meghana KeshavanSTAT NewsJune 20th, 2016The semen centrifuge called Trak will calculate sperm count but not sperm motility or other factors that affect fertility.
Do women who donate their eggs run a health risk?by Sandra G. BoodmanThe Washington PostJune 20th, 2016People who make egg donations may feel exploited during the process and experience serious health consequences due to a dearth of research on the effects of egg retrieval.
Start-ups selling new blood tests directly to consumers raise safety and accuracy concerns by Melody PetersenThe Los Angeles TimesJune 19th, 2016The biotech start-ups often seek to make the medical lab business more accessible but frequently distribute incorrect results, harming individuals.
First Human Test of CRISPR Proposedby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewJune 16th, 2016Researchers propose using CRISPR/Cas9 to alter gene sequences associated with certain illnesses, such as some forms of cancer.
Stem cell factory opens door for trials of personalized diabetes treatment by Andrew JosephStat NewsJune 16th, 2016The iPS cell treatment for Type I diabetes could enter the clinical trials phase in a few years.
Promising gene therapies pose million-dollar conundrumby Erika Check HaydenNature NewsJune 15th, 2016Economists, investors and medical insurers can’t figure out how to pay for gene therapy treatments.
Should We Sequence the DNA of Every Cancer Patient?by Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewJune 14th, 2016To match cancer patients with drugs, Strata Oncology plans to offer free genetic tests.
‘Safe’ call? My thoughts on the latest mitochondrial replacement paper by Ted MorrowTed's BlogJune 14th, 2016A paper published by Nature discusses mitochondrial replacement but underplays the danger of "mitonuclear mismatching."
Myriad Genetics Refuses To Accept That People Have A Right To Access Their Own DNA Sequencesby Glyn MoodyTech DirtJune 13th, 2016The fight for a patent over people's DNA sequences has been met with resistance by the US Supreme Court and the ACLU.
Are DIY gene-testing kits a good idea?​ by Sharon BrennanThe Guardian June 13th, 2016Over-the-counter tests can predict the likelihood of developing illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. However, they cause some people anxiety, as there are no cures for most hereditary conditions.
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