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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.



Public Polling on Human Genetic Modification: Mixed, but Favor MoratoriumMay 23rd, 2015Many of us scientists, ethicists, and legal scholars are working on educational outreach to the public on the potential use of gene editing technologies to genetically modify human beings, but clearly there’s a long way to go and much more to do on this front.
Why We Need To Talk Now About The Brave New World Of Editing Genesby Carey GoldbergWBURMay 22nd, 2015That buzzworthy biology topic is a revolutionary new method to “edit” DNA that has spread to thousands of labs around the world just in the last couple of years.
Weighing The Promises Of Big Genomicsby David DobbsBuzzFeedMay 21st, 2015Your DNA may be up for sale. And the sale depends on an exaggerated picture of genetic power and destiny.
Does Biotech Need Limits?by Azeen GhorayshiBuzzFeed NewsMay 19th, 2015A group of the world’s top scientists and bioethicists just got together to hammer out the goals and limits of 21st-century biotechnology. And some of them really, really don’t agree.
Innovation and Equity in an Age of Gene Editingby Charis Thompson, Ruha Benjamin, Jessica Cussins and Marcy DarnovskyThe GuardianMay 19th, 2015As experts gather in Atlanta to discuss the rights and wrongs of editing human genomes, four of the attendees explain why it is vital to put social justice at the heart of the debate.
US Science Academies Take on Human-Genome Editing[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Sara ReardonNatureMay 18th, 2015National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine to develop guidelines for rapidly advancing technology to modify human embryos and germ cells.
Stem Cell 'Wild West' Takes Root Amid Lack of US RegulationAssociated PressMay 18th, 2015More than 170 clinics across the country are selling experimental stem cell procedures for dozens of diseases and conditions — a mushrooming industry that has flourished despite little evidence of its safety or effectiveness.
Francis Collins on CRISPR: "Designer Babies Make Great Hollywood — And Bad Science"by Julia BelluzVoxMay 18th, 2015I called Collins to talk further about the ethical problems CRISPR raises, and why he thinks this genetic editing technique is both hugely promising and, potentially, very dangerous.
National Academies Will Meet to Guide 'Gene Editing' Researchby Lisa M. KriegerSan Jose Mercury NewsMay 18th, 2015The landmark conference will gather researchers and other experts to review and explore the scientific, ethical and social implications of a new practice, which can "cut and paste" gene sequences.
U.S. Introduces New DNA Standard for Ensuring Accuracy of Genetic Testsby Robert PearThe New York TimesMay 14th, 2015The National Institute of Standards and Technology has developed “reference materials” that could be used by laboratories to determine whether their machines and software were properly analyzing a person’s genome.
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