50 whys to look for genes: 50. Genomics is “promising” in a “high-speed, high-tech, and high-finance world”

As described by Mike Fortun in his 2008 book, Promising Genomics: Iceland and deCODE Genetics in a World of Speculation (Univ. of California Press), a biotech company was given rights to knowledge and its application derived by connecting health data with genomic data for all of Iceland’s citizens. As described in a review of the book, Fortun:

comes neither to fortify nor to condemn contemporary conjunctures of industry, science, and statecraft. Rather, Fortun seeks to demonstrate the molten character of “responsibility” in genomics, when the making of genomes and their properties unfolds through such heterogeneous but conjoined practices as scrutinizing nucleotides, keeping an eye on the investment regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and debating questions of privacy/privatization in national legislative bodies. Speculating on genomics— scientifically, financially, politically—requires an analytical and ethical openness rather than a too-sure-of-itself a priori bioethics. It requires, argues Fortun, a special attention to promises: how they are made, what they require, and why they almost always generate futures that, in their stipulation, have an uncanny way of folding back into and (re)orienting the present. (Helmreich, 2009)

DeCODE filed for bankruptcy in 2009, but was bought out by Amgen in 2012. The firm continues its work, but now with less attention in investment circles and the media.

Sometimes something else more promising, such as apps for mobile devices, emerges and the investment gets withdrawn from areas, such as biotech, where the promises had been seen to be (chart, source, 2013).

(Introduction to this series of posts)


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