Global Knowledge, Global Legitimacy? Transatlantic Biomedicine since 1970
September 6-7, 2019
Conference at GHI Washington
Conveners: Axel Jansen (GHI Washington) and Claudia Roesch (GHI Washington)
When the French pharmaceutical company Roussell Uclaff, a subsidiary of the German chemical giant Hoechst AG, was ready to introduce an abortion pill in 1988, American activists flooded the company’s headquarters near Frankfurt with protest letters. In response, the company’s German CEO mandated to stop the project. But the French state – a Hoechst minority shareholder – took the idea across the border, patented it, and embarked on medical trials for the new product in France.
Ten years later, scientists in the United States successfully isolated human embryonic stem cells. The country’s regulatory framework had left them free to let the cells proliferate indefinitely. But researchers adopted concepts implemented in Britain to limit the cells’ growth to 13 days after gestation.
Such examples illustrate the transnational implications of controversies arising from scientific research and therapies evolving in academic settings and in companies coordinating their efforts globally. Global research practices have raised questions about the reach of regulations. Scientific findings and technologies have prompted support and resistance informed by beliefs and worldviews, some with transnational scope and with an impact on national laws as well as on the regulation of research and therapy. Cultural, moral, or religious considerations have affected the ways in which scientific insights or technologies were enabled, received, or restricted. Concerns about the availability of therapies sparked public debates and led to national and global responses by advocacy groups, foundations, political parties and governments. This conference will focus on the national/global nexus through the prism of biomedicine and its context since 1970.