Global Knowledge, Global Legitimacy? Transatlantic Biomedicine since 1970

06.09.-07.09.2019, Konferenz, DHI Washington

Conveners: Axel Jansen (DHI Washington) and Claudia Roesch (DHI 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.

The role of biomedicine has shifted over the past half-century. It was shaped by economic and political developments and it prompted cultural and political responses. Many of these developments were considered central to the transatlantic world in a global context, and this provides us with an opportunity to use biomedicine as a prism for investigating the history of the past half century. Such efforts can build on research in different subfields: Economists and legal scholars have been interested in evolving industries, concepts of intellectual property, or the impact of legislation such as the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act on American universities. Political scientists have focused on the challenges to ethics and regulation of global research in national contexts. Historians of science and medicine have dealt with the debates sparked by cognitive developments in specific fields and the ramifications of shifting structures within biomedical and clinical research. Scholars of contemporary history have emphasized the cultural, social, and political implications of medical advances such as the pill, assisted reproduction, PID, or DNA testing in societies on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. For this conference, we would like to bring together colleagues from relevant fields to discuss the shifting role and impact of biomedical science and medical therapy since 1970 and to develop from it larger themes for writing the history of this period.

Mehr Infoshttps://www.ghi-dc.org/events-conferences/event-history/2019/conferences/biomed.html?L=0