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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.



Congress Should Support Access to Post-Conviction DNA Testingby Kirk BloodsworthThe HillJuly 29th, 2015"If not for post-conviction DNA testing, I might still be in prison, or worse, I could have been executed."
CRISPR/Cas Gene-Editing Technique Holds Great Promise, but Research Moratorium Makes Sense Pending Further Study by Jeff Bessen The Conversation July 29th, 2015In the enthusiasm and hype surrounding CRISPR, it is easy to forget that the technology has been in wide use for barely three years and the accompanying risks are not yet known.
Cutting-Edge Technology and Mitochondrial Diseases - Where is the Limit?by Dusko IlicBioNewsJuly 27th, 2015In their latest study, Shoukrat Mitalipov and collaborators report on two potential 'gene correction' strategies that can help patients with mitochondrial diseases.
Scientist Criticizes Media Portrayal of Researchby Chris WoolstonNature NewsJuly 24th, 2015A psychology researcher looks at media missteps in reporting work on music and the brain.
Drifting Away from Informed Consent in the Era of Personalized Medicineby Erik ParensThe Hastings Center ReportJuly 23rd, 2015In our excitement about the technological capacity to gather genomic data at an ever-lower cost, we are drifting away from what has long been a basic ethical commitment.
The Ethical Sperm Bank: An All-Open Sperm Bank. An Idea Whose Time Has Comeby  Wendy KramerHuffington PostJuly 22nd, 2015These are the only solutions in the absence of government regulation. Perhaps in time and as public pressure mounts, regulation will follow.
US Tailored-Medicine Project Aims for Ethnic Balanceby Sara ReardonNature NewsJuly 21st, 2015The $215-million Precision Medicine Initiative is having trouble meeting an imminent deadline, in part because its priorities include filling racial and socio-economic gaps left by other long-term studies.
Google is Scouring Ancestry.com to Find Out What's In Your Genesby Caroline ChenBloomberg BusinessweekJuly 21st, 2015Google Inc.ís Calico, which studies aging and related diseases, will delve into the genetic database amassed by Ancestry.com to look for hereditary influences on longevity.
What You Really Need to Know About Egg Freezingby  Charlotte Alter, Diane Tsai, & Francesca TrianniTime July 16th, 2015Some call egg freezing an "insurance policy" for modern women. But does it really work? Here are eight key takeaways from six months of reporting.
Can We Cure Genetic Diseases Without Slipping Into Eugenics?by Nathaniel ComfortThe NationJuly 16th, 2015Gene editing could correct genetic mutations for serious illnesses. Will it also create a new eugenics of personal choice?
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