Amid growing public concerns, bioscience firms begin formalizing ethical decision-making practices

Pharmaceutical, biotechnology and bio-agricultural companies, grappling with an array of complex ethical issues, are gradually formalizing systematic approaches to ethical decision-making, according to a two-year study by leading international ethics and bioscience researchers.

Bioscience companies operations pose many ethical dilemmas. They produce and sell genetically modified foods, conduct gene therapy experiments and embryonic stem cell research to produce new therapies, use animals to test new pharmaceuticals, manipulate life'TMs building blocks, create transgenic animals to produce drugs, commercialize genetic and biological materials, compile and use personal genetic information, and set drug prices for domestic and developing country markets.

Companies of all sizes and in all sectors, faced with growing questions and concerns, are recognizing and acting on public pressure to demonstrate business methods that are not just legal but ethical too, according to research conducted jointly by the Joint Centre for Bioethics (JCB) at the University of Toronto, the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences (Claremont CA), Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA), and l'TMUniversite de Montreal.

More than 100 in-depth interviews with managers and top executives at 13 diverse bioscience firms, large and small, all with reputations for developing new approaches, were conducted to capture and summarize the way the industry innovators today address ethical challenges. The research represents some of the first empirical evidence of how bioscience companies are dealing with ethical issues now, establishing a constructive starting point on which to build.

The research results are newly published in the book Bioindustry Ethics (Elsevier Academic Press), with a summary (and accompanying editorial) published today by PLOS Medicine, the paper entitled "Lessons on Ethical Decision Making fro

Contact: Terry Collins
University of Toronto Joint Center for Bioethics

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