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Prof.Brian Salter visited our institute and gave a talk on "The political economy of the global stem cell therapy market"

Prof. Brian Salter, Professor of Politics, Director of Research and Deputy Head of the Department of Political Economy, Director of the Global Biopolitics Research Centre, King’s College London visited our institute and gave a talk on "The political economy of the global stem cell therapy market". Students and faculties from the School of Social Sciences and School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University, as well as the scholars from Chinese Academy of Sciences, Renmin University of China came to attend, while Dr. Chadwick WANG from the Institute of Science, Technology and Society, Tsinghua University host this lecture.

In the presentation, Prof. Salter argued, Innovation in the life sciences in general and stem cell science in particular is driven by an interlinked set of global markets with many and various governance arrangement at national and transnational levels. Predominant among these markets are research funding, scientific labour, research materials, clinical labour (subjects for clinical experimentation and clinical trials), venture capital, patenting and, last but not least, health consumers. It is the operation of the latter market which, in the case of stem cell science, has provoked controversy across the globe in countries such as South Korea, Thailand, China, India, the US, Japan and Italy as the demand from health consumers for treatment of diseases as diverse as spinal cord injury, neuro degenerative disorders, diabetes mellitus, heart disease and Lyme Disease has collided with the capacity of medical science to deliver innovative stem cell therapies. Global health consumer demand for stem cell therapies is vibrant but the supply of treatments from the conventional science-based model of innovation is small and unlikely to increase in the near future.  At the same time, models of medical innovation have emerged that can respond to the demand, often employing a transnational value chain to deliver the product.  Much of the commentary has approached the issue from a supply side perspective, demonstrating the extent to which national and transnational regulation fails to impose what are regarded as appropriate standards on the ‘illicit’ supply of stem cell therapies.  In contrast, this paper presents a political economic analysis with a strong demand side perspective, arguing that the problem of what is termed ‘stem cell tourism’ is embedded in the demand-supply relationship of the health consumer market and its engagement with different types of stem cell therapy innovation. To be meaningful, discussions of regulation must recognize that analysis or risk being sidelined by a market which ignores their often wishful thinking.