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Imagining the future of cell therapies: clinical trials, innovation and the intersection of clinical-academic and commercial visions

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This paper examines the role of clinical trials in regenerative medicine innovation, exploring how trials have contributed to translational challenges in the field. Using data from an ethnographic study of UK cell therapy trials I interrogate the institutional framework for clinical trials and the identity-making of trialists. This analysis uncovers a disconnect between a commercially-aligned regulatory framework and a clinical-academic identity apparent in the majority of current trialling activity. These different pathways appear to represent two distinct sociotechnical imaginaries for cell therapies; one which reflects the assumptions of commercial innovation and prioritizes economic success, and another which embodies the cultural expectations of academia and emphasizes the importance of clinical care. These two imaginaries operate in synergy to some extent but there are significant tensions between them. How and to what extent these tensions are reconciled is likely to determine both the long-term success and the future shape of the field.
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Keywords: Clinical trials; cell therapies; co-production; regenerative medicine; sociotechnical imaginaries

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Science and Technology Studies Unit, University of York, York, UK

Publication date: October 2, 2019

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