ASA2016: Footprints and futures: the time of anthropology

(P25)
Biomedicine, entrepreneurship and future ecologies of health care
Location Science Site/Maths CM221
Date and Start Time 06 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Marina Marouda (University of Sussex) email
  • Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner (University of Sussex) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel considers the increasing commodification of biomedical interventions in medical care and its implications for the future of human health. It examines the entrepreneurial practices that shape biomedical research and innovation and, as a consequence, the future of healthcare.

Long Abstract

Biomedical technologies have become a major engine of change in global health care, constituting a prime means by which governments aspire to ameliorate disease and disability everywhere. Business considerations and commercial practices are driving developments in biomedicine, with both public and private health providers engaging in bioentrepreneurial undertakings. The emergence of innovative bioindustries have captured the interest of social scientists but despite the abundance of reflections on bioeconomy in academic discourse, very little is known about the actual ways through which biomedical markets are created. The panel considers the entrepreneurial engagements through which biomedical innovation is created, and asks how such engagements are changing the institutional nature of medical practice and the challenges this poses for the future of human health. What does the growing commercialisation of biomedical knowledge and practice mean for health care provision?

The panel invites contributions that explore in fine-grained ethnography entrepreneurial engagements in biomedicine tracing the ways in which biomedical ventures are constituted. What are the legal and regulatory frameworks, scientific environments and institutional exchanges through which biomedical knowledge is turned into profitable ventures? We are particularly interested in ethnographic cases that chart complex institutional settings, dispersed networks, and collaborative flows as instrumental in the makings of successful biotech enterprises.

The panel will also critically reflect on the role of anthropological knowledge in shaping developments in human health, by locating the production of this knowledge within ongoing processes of commoditisation, and examining the positions anthropologists are called to occupy with respect to bioentrepreneurial projects.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"All Japan" policies and the entrepreneurialisation of regenerative medicine (RM) in Japan

Author: Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner (University of Sussex)  email

Short Abstract

I assess the impact of ‘All Japan’ life science policy-making on regenerative medicine (RM), in particular iPS, and its translation into medical products. I argue that it has led to the entrepreurialiation of pluripotency research, but with unintended consequences for its internationalisation.

Long Abstract

This article tries to assess the impact of life science policy-making on RM, in particular pluripotency, and its translation into products in Japan. Enormous investment into RM and policies intend to stimulate economic growth and to support the country's scientists in becoming the first to deliver iPS therapies to patients. These efforts have lead to a myriad of collaborative efforts with science institutions, regulatory agencies and industry, which involve entrepreneurial talents ranging from management, biobanking, investment, property rights and ethical review to negotiation with government agencies and industry and people skills. The entrepreneurial aspects of these life science collaborations are captured in the notion of bionetworking, which I use to analyse the various collaborative bioclusters that have come about as a result of Japanese assertive policies. I will argue that, first, policies that identify iPS with Japanese RM have overestimated the potential of iPS therapy and underestimated its consequences for other stem cell fields; second, "All Japan" policy, which seem to concentrate on Japan, in fact focuses on the international expansion of medical products; and, third, the regulatory facilitation of iPS has increased the entrepreneurialisation of RM in a number of unintended directions. The aim of this article is to increase the understanding of the friction points between self-assertive national policy-making on RM and its internationalisation.

Cultivating stem cell ventures: clinical trials and the makings of Vietnamese bio-entrepreneurs

Author: Marina Marouda (University of Sussex)  email

Short Abstract

The paper is concerned with biomedical technologies and the entrepreneurial ways through which these vital technologies come to life. Focusing on Việt Nam it traces the enterprising, complex and networking ways through which stem cell research is transformed into profitable applications.

Long Abstract

Biotechnology has, in recent years, become a key growth industry on a global scale, promising economic and social benefits. The paper is concerned with biomedical technologies and the entrepreneurial ways through which these vital technologies come to life. Focusing on Việt Nam, an emerging frontier in Asian biotechnology, it traces the enterprising, complex and networking ways through which stem cell research and applications take place. The paper focuses on stem cell 'clinical trials' and examines the networked ways through which research processes are turned into entrepreneurial ventures. Of particular concern are network partnerships involving public bodies, policy makers and private interests that facilitate the process of turning clinical experiments into vetted therapies, which can subsequently become commercially available. A recently completed state-sponsored 'trial' that failed to produce any conclusive results, provides an interesting ethnographic case to consider. Despite inconclusive clinical results and the uncertain effects of stem cell applications, this process of clinical experimentation gave rise to two separate stem cell businesses.

The ethnographic case presented here seeks to add to anthropological reflections on emerging 'bioeconomies' and the ways in which human biological materials are being turned into a commodities, by shifting the focus of attention from the production of 'biovalue' as rooted in the future and the promise of cure towards tracing the processes through which biomedical enterprises and science-based industries take shape in the present.

Commodified infertility treatment and its influence on women's health: from cases of Japan and the Netherlands

Author: Masae Kato  email

Short Abstract

Infertility treatment is a thriving business. Observing cases of Japan and the Netherlands, this paper discusses how presence and absence of regulations, and commodification and non-commodification of IVF may differently influence women’s health both mentally and physically.

Long Abstract

Infertility treatment is a thriving business in Japan. In the country, the age of first marriage among women is being advanced, and the number of women undergoing infertility treatment is increasing. The treatment - here In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)- is neither covered by health insurance nor regulated, so, women can attempt to become pregnant as long as they want. In the field, the author met a number of women undergoing IVF for many years. In the sense a great source of income for maternity clinic is IVF, infertility treatments is commodified.

A number of women going through IVF is increasing in the Netherlands, too, but IVF is regulated: up to three attempts are insured and women above 45 are not recommended to undergo IVF. As IVF is performed in public hospitals, it is not commodified. So, in one situation there is 'freedom' for women without limits, and in the other there is limits of 'freedom' where the treatment is clearly regulated.

This paper, based on the author's observation and conversations of women and couples under IVF in both countries, analyses effects of commodification of IVF on the health of women with infertility problems, both mentally and physically. Does absence of regulations benefit women's dream to have children in the end? How do women in the Netherlands deal with regulations in pursing their dreams to have children? In short: How does presence and absence of regulations, and commodification and non-commodification of IVF influence women's health in cases I observe?

Forming new ecologies of bioenterpreneurship through bionetworking: the case of Stempeutics

Authors: Prasanna Kumar Patra (Utkal University)  email
Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner (University of Sussex)  email

Short Abstract

Forming new ecologies of bioenterpreneurship through bionetworking: the case of Stempeutics

Long Abstract

In this article, by using the example of Stempeutics - an Indian private stem cell company, we aim to understand the biomedical, social-economic and policy contexts that lead to transformations in the fields of stem cell research, cell-based product development, therapy provisions and regulatory capacity building in India. The case of Stempeutics, its metamorphosis over a period of one decade, from a maverick 'experimental' stem cell therapy providing centre to a 'responsible' cell-based product development company highlights the following: (a) Co-production of technology and economy is guided by creation of new configurations, through 'bionetworking', that is ahead of existing forms of collaborations (b) Forward looking bioenterpreneurial initiatives put emphasis on 'harmonization' of regulatory arrangements at local, national and global levels keeping in mind anticipated flow of technology and economy, thereby, devises tools and methods having specific characters for countries that are in the process of adopting 'novel' regulatory standards. (c) Innovation (here, in stem cell product development) results from increasingly complex interactions at the local, national and global levels among various stakeholders. In the process, a leader or trend-setter (as Stempeutics is projected) is viewed as a 'hegemonic' player in the bioenterpreneurial market place, thereby restricts the spill-over effect of the innovation.

'Digestion, immunity and vitality': nutriceuticals, ready-to-use-therapeutic-foods, and the temporary as the future

Authors: Thomas Cousins (Stellenbosch University)  email
Michelle Pentecost (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

The convergence of humanitarian governance architectures and corporate interests in nutrition interventions in South Africa rests on a future-oriented logic that employs ideas about digestion, immunity and wellness to reconfigure food supplementation in pregnancy and to the HIV positive population.

Long Abstract

Food's reconfiguration as pharmaceutical in biomedical regimes of knowledge has been considered by scholars across two themes: (1) food supplementation as humanitarian intervention, predicated on a particular value of life and delivered in a situation of 'çrisis', with a specific temporal horizon characterised by short term impacts, and (2) food supplementation as commercial entity, marketed as an enhancer of 'wellness' or potential, predicated on notions of risk across a much broader temporal frame. The more recent convergence of humanitarian design and corporate interest requires inquiry into the semiotic manouevres by which such a shift has been possible, and we contend that the tropes of 'digestion', 'immunity' and 'vitality' are central to this reconfiguration. We consider nutriceuticals and ready-to-use-therapeutic foods as they are deployed by state and commercial actors in South Africa, where two key figures are the focus of state and corporate interests in nutrition intervention: the pregnant woman and the HIV positive population. These two figures, as biopolitical expressions of post-Apartheid regimes of knowledge, care, and governance, illustrate how state distribution and corporate marketing of food supplements in South Africa employ a future-oriented logic that appeals to notions of power, energy, and potential. The convergence of these two figures in relation to 'digestion,' 'immunity' and 'vitality' reveals the logic of therapeutic foods not merely as humanitarian technologies that reconfigure crisis as chronic condition - a case of the temporary becoming permanent - but as constitutively premised on new potentialities, in which the temporary can (re)shape the future.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.