Biobank Economics and the Commercialization Problem

Andrew Turner, Clara Lea Dallaire-Fortier, Madeleine J Murtagh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The economics of biobanking are intertwined with its social and scientific aspects. In this article, we illustrate this interrelationship and describe two problems that structure the discussion about the economics of biobanking. First, there is a “sustainability problem” about how to maintain biobanks in the long term. Second, and representing a partial response to the first problem, there is a “commercialization problem” about how to deal with the voluntary, altruistic relationship between biobanks and their participants, on the one hand, and the potential commercial relationships that a biobank may form, on the other. We agree with those social scientists who have argued that the commercialization problem is inadequate as a way to construct the multiple tensions that biobanks must negotiate. Turning to alternative accounts of bioeconomy, we suggest that contemporary consideration of the economics of biobanking primarily in terms of participants and their bodily tissue may reproduce the very commodification of science that these scholars critique.We suggest that an alternative conception of the economics of biobanking, one which goes beyond the logics of commodification, may thereby allow broader questions about the social and economic conditions and consequences of biobanks to be posed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-80
Number of pages12
JournalSpontaneous Generations: a Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science.
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Nov
Externally publishedYes

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History


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