The bioeconomy of reproduction: the mutually constitutive interaction between assisted reproduction and regenerative medicine in Spain and UK (BIOARREME)

Tabs group

Main researcher: Vincenzo Pavone (IPP-CSIC)
Recent advances in genetic studies and genomics have had a far-reaching impact on the direction of biomedical research and discussions of healthcare policy prospects (Andrews 1994; Kaufert 2000; Abel et al. 2005; Patlak and Levit 2010). These new technologies also constitute the core of an emerging tissue-based bioeconomy (Waldby and Mitchell 2006). Bioeconomies will not grow spontaneously, the OECD (2009) warned: they require that appropriate regulations, adequate investment, human resources, social acceptance, and market structures be created for them.

The aim of this project is to explore, analyse and discuss the emergence and consolidation of a specific example of bioeconomy: the bioeconomy of reproduction. In this bioeconomy, the main interactions and advances seem to be emerging around the mutually constitutive interaction of two domains: assisted reproduction and regenerative medicine. In many European countries, IVF centers and stem cells research labs seem to reinforce each other, constituting the backbone of a bioeconomy of reproduction, which is arguably underpinned and sustained by four neoliberal constitutive principles: reproductive autonomy, individual responsibility, patient-choice and market-based governance.

While existing bioethical and sociological debates have been casting light on important social and ethical issues associated with the progressive development and introduction of these biomedical technologies, few studies have raised the analytical gaze to a point from where the social, economic, legal and political articulations characterizing the interaction between assisted human reproduction and regenerative medicine can be observed for what they constitute: the complex articulations of a bio-economy. A comprehensive study of this kind is still missing, especially in comparative terms, Apart from exploring the mutual constitutive relationship between IVF centers and research labs, this study will also highlight and critically analyze the social dynamics, the political implications, the regulative challenges and the economic prospects of both assisted reproduction and regenerative medicine. In addition, it may also reveal new knowledge about the role of new medical biotechnologies in what has been defined the co-production of science and social order (Jasanoff 2004, 2005), illustrate the importance of bio-objects in this bioeconomy and show the mutually constitutive relationship between neoliberalism, technology and the bioeconomy at large.

This project focuses on a comparative analysis of Spain and UK, and it tries to explore what it means to enact a bioeconomy, not only through laboratories and capital, but also through promises, imaginaries and subjectivities. As an in-depth reflexive study on local enactments of the bioeconomy, this project speaks to ongoing debates within and beyond science and technology studies on enactment itself, scientific citizenship, local knowledge and the performativity of expectations. A comparison between Spain’s increasingly neoliberalized biomedical and scientific sector, and the UK where a traditionally strict, though permissive regulatory biomedical and scientific environment has enjoyed some notable successes will reveal not only how the bioeconomy is (successfully or unsuccessfully) performed but also the ongoing tensions within the wider neoliberal project of which the bioeconomy is a part.

Sponsor: MICIIN (Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation), National Research and Development Plan 2010-2013.
Participating Entities: 4
Budget: 63.000 euros
Duration of the project: January 2012 - December 2014
Number of researchers: 4
FPI scholarship: 1

Funding agency: