Bioethics Issues Prominent at BIO 2004 in San Francisco

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 20, 2004) — Biotechnology continues to develop and produce new breakthrough benefits to society in the areas of medicine, food and agriculture, industrial and environmental processes. At the same time, the introduction of any new technology sparks new debates about its ethical and social implications.

"Bioethics is a topic for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) every day of the year and one that we consider with great deliberation," said BIO President Carl B. Feldbaum. "We recognize that biotech can help society in so many ways, but we also understand that new technologies should be approached with a combination of enthusiasm, caution and humility to ensure that they are not misused.

"BIO maintains an active bioethics committee that works with Congress, federal agencies, the religious community and thought leaders to explore the impact of biotech's developments on society," Feldbaum added. "Its work has helped to shape thoughtful policies on such relevant topics as stem cell research, cloning, global health, the use of genetic information, medical record confidentiality and the protection of human subjects.

"As the entire global biotech industry gathers in San Francisco, the bioethics debate will be among the most well-attended sessions by scientists, researchers, religious and secular ethicists, and patients," Feldbaum concluded.

The BIO 2004 Annual International Convention will take place June 6-9 at San Francisco's Moscone Center. Among the bioethics sessions that are planned:

Stem Cell Research
Monday, June 7, 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Legislative activities to ban somatic cell nuclear transfer and the patenting of human organisms reached a fever pitch in the last year. Meanwhile, some in the scientific community have expressed frustration with federal restrictions on stem cell research that may be limiting advancements in regenerative medicine. This session will examine the scientific, legal and ethical landscape in this area of research.

Science and Faith: Agriculture, Medicine and Bioethics from a Religious Perspective
Monday, June 7, 4-5:30 p.m.
As the biotechnology industry continues to grow and gain prominence, the industry faces both opposition and support from the world's religions. This panel of religious leaders and scholars will explore the theological and ethical questions surrounding biotech.

Enhancement: Limits of Biotechnology
Monday, June 7, 2:15-3:45 p.m.
Despite the many benefits biotech has created, some argue that the technology's current uses are beyond needed therapies and that future technologies may create a "post-human future" that will supplant the essence of our humanity. This session will discuss the science and its implications.

Bioethics in the Boardroom: The Sequel
Monday, June 7, 9:30-10:45 a.m.
A panel of experts will examine the nature and history of bioethics as a corporate consideration, how to establish a bioethics overseer in the corporate setting and why it is an essential risk management tool, and recent examples of bioethical dilemmas faced by life science companies.

Bioethics Roundtable: "Ethics and Industry Decision-making: Access to and Affordability of Breakthrough Biotechnology Products"
Sunday, June 6, 1-3:00 p.m.
Biotech leaders, bioethicists and economists will discuss a case study on the ethical issues surrounding biotech product development and access to approved therapies.

For more information about these bioethics sessions or BIO 2004, go online at Registration is complimentary for credentialed news media; however, only reporters and editors working full-time for print or broadcast news organizations will be permitted to register on-site in San Francisco. Members of the media are urged to register as soon as possible.

BIO represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.