Chapter 14: Biotechnology Patents, Public Trust and Patent Pools: The Need for Governance?
Timothy Caulfield1 Over the past few decades, biomedical research has caught the public imagination like never before. The mapping of the human genome and stem cell research, for example, are topics that have received intense media attention. They are topics that the public cares about and, to a large degree, they are areas of research that the public supports. However, biomedical research has also produced a great deal of social controversy. The scandals associated with clinical trials, the recent Korean cloning fiasco and the continued public debate about the moral acceptability of stem cell research have also been the focus of the media limelight and public debate. Such controversies have the potential to erode confidence in the research enterprise. In addition, the public seems to be growing increasingly skeptical about the impact of commercial pressures on research – this at a time when academic biomedical research has unprecedented ties with industry. Indeed, as we will see below, many of the most high profile biomedical research controversies are associated with industry influences (Lemmens, 2004; Morin, et al., 2002). In addition, the patenting of biological material, such as human genes and stem cell lines, has also created a level of social unease. In this chapter I briefly review, by way of example, some of the social controversies associated with the involvement of industry in controversial biomedical research. I consider what the available data on public opinion tells us about how the public views ‘life patents’ and the commercialization process. I then consider the...
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