Pierre Delvenne and Hadrien Macq in Frankfurt for a workshop on biobanking in Europe


On June 15-16 2023, Pierre Delvenne et Hadrien Macq participated to a workshop on 'Biobanking in Europe' at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. They were invited by the research group Cryosocieties - Suspended Life: Exploring Cryopreservation Practices in Contemporary Societies (ERC project of Pr. Thomas Lemke).


They presented two communications bosed on their work on the Moving Cells research project.


 Frankfurt Biobanks 2


Communication 1 - Going with the Flow: Moving Cells and Changing Values in Biomedical Practice

Pierre Delvenne, Hadrien Macq, Céline Parotte

Science and technology studies have devoted considerable attention to the economic implications of biomedical technoscience. This aricle enriches these studies by offering an original conceptual framework that highlights the porous boundaries between gift, commodity, and asset economies. We derive this framework from an empirical analysis of autologous blood donation in the case of a cell therapy called ‘extracorporeal photopheresis’. Combining a year-long ethnography with semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and document analysis in a cell therapy laboratory at a Belgian university hospital, we followed cells in motion from their original donation to their reinjection into the body, observing the practices that constitute and shape their value. We find that the various qualifications as ‘gift’, ‘commodity’ or ‘asset’ that cells acquire, accumulate, or relinquish, as well as the consequences of these qualifications, are only accessible by observing the valuation practices that configure living processes. Our analysis of these practices highlights the interrelations between the economic forms that living entities can take to reject the idea of a watertight boundary between them. By emphasizing the entanglement of logics specific to donation, commodification, or assetization, this article contributes to linking the value shifts observed at the level of the laboratory to broader capitalist transformations.


Frankfurt Biobanks 1


Communication 2 - “We Cannot Lock Research Up”: Balancing Health and Wealth through Bioconstitutional Orderings in Belgium

Hadrien Macq, Pierre Delvenne, Céline Parotte

As a resource that has been in increasing demand for decades, human tissues and cells are now recognized as an important source of both health and wealth. As such, public authorities have taken responsibility for regulating their procurement, storage, manipulation and use. This article examines how this regulation works in practice by examining the case of Belgium, a country where the pharmaceutical industry weighs heavily in terms of employment and economic growth. Looking at the interactions between law and life through the analytical lens of ‘bioconstitutionalism’, we specifically ask how the extraction of human bodily material (HBM) is regulated and we explore the changing relationships between citizens, public authorities, and researchers as a result. The Belgian bioconstitutional order tends to encourage research by facilitating the availability and use of HBM, in the hope that this will fuel the engine of innovation and thus employment and economic growth. This is done at the expense of protecting both the donor (through relaxed consent requirements) and the patient (by prioritizing resources to regulate, control and promote biomedical research rather than therapeutic applications of HBM). We then discuss the implications of these findings for the broader moral and political economy of health regulation. In particular, we argue that what it means to be ‘altruistic’ is being reshaped within a new moral economy of giving, without a clear recognition of this reshaping, which includes citizens as crucial contributors to the further development of the bioeconomy, while at the same time excluding them from participating in the governance of how this bioeconomy develops.

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