Developments in biomedical innovation today can be seen in areas such as robotics, digital systems or new imaging techniques - and increasingly in areas marked by highly sophisticated forms of medical biology and biotechnology that involve altering 'natural' biological processes. Three
key developments form the focus for this project: the arrival of 'gene-editing' whose goal is to understand and remove disease-related mutations, the creation of induced pluripotent stem cells that can be controlled to create different types of tissue for cell therapy, and the emergence of
3D printing of biological material which aims to create novel structures for bodily repair and renewal. These developments can all be described as 'biomodifying technologies', that is, those that modify living biological tissue in novel and increasingly patient-orientated and customised ways.
Not only do these technologies challenge existing governance frameworks in terms of standards for safety, quality control, and traceability of biological materials, equally and perhaps more importantly, they are 'gateway' technologies with wide-ranging applications, significant commercial
engagement and high levels of transferability, which open up far-reaching possibilities. We need to understand and anticipate such developments if we are to build an informed and constructively critical social science of biomedical innovation today. More broadly, this contributes towards the
ESRC's core priority and delivery plan aim of supporting research that can promote economic growth and development, and to do so in a way that is based on robust, engaged social science that maps and analyses the implications of innovation. The project will use a mixed methods approach for
UK fieldwork combining documentary analysis of various literatures, including the academic and grey literatures, with qualitative semi-structured interviews with a range of key stakeholders in each of the fields being studied. These include scientists working in academic laboratories, representatives
of SMEs, patient groups, research agencies, regulators, and senior staff in important service organisations (e.g. biobanks). Secondary data from other European, US and East Asian sources will also be secured. The project will result in data, academic papers and policy reports that will offer
the first comprehensive social science analysis of these major developments in biomedicine.
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