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Has a global shift transformed science and medicine?

July 30, 2019

Bioethics takes a look at neurosciences, translational medicine and innovation in biotechnology.

Written by Mark D. Robinson, PhD

In a summary of his most recently published book, Mark D. Robinson, PhD, Assistant Professor within Creighton’s Department of Interdisciplinary Studies argues that the “new research paradigm has turned university research teams into biotechnology startups”. This is one example of the many ethical issues in healthcare that are examined by the faculty teaching in Creighton University’s Bioethics master’s program. Learn more about becoming an ethical leader in healthcare by visiting the Bioethics program page.

X-Ray image of a mind

A global shift has secretly transformed science and medicine. Starting in 2003, biomedical research in the West has been reshaped by the emergence of translational science and medicine—the idea that the aim of research is to translate findings as quickly as possible into medical products. In The Market in Mind, Mark Dennis Robinson charts this shift, arguing that the new research paradigm has turned university research teams into small biotechnology startups and their industry partners into early-stage investment firms.

There is also a larger, surprising consequence from this shift: according to Robinson, translational science and medicine enable biopharmaceutical firms, as part of a broader financial strategy, to outsource the riskiest parts of research to nonprofit universities. Robinson examines the implications of this new configuration. What happens, for example, when universities absorb unknown levels of risk? Robinson argues that in the years since the global financial crisis translational science and medicine has brought about “the financialization of health.”

Robinson explores such topics as shareholder anxiety and industry retreat from Alzheimer’s and depression research; how laboratory research is understood as health innovation even when there is no product; the emergence of investor networking events as crucial for viewing science in a market context; and the place of patients in research decisions. Although translational medicine justifies itself by the goal of relieving patients’ suffering, Robinson finds patients’ voices largely marginalized in translational neuroscience.