Regenerative Medicine and New Labour life science policy: rhetorics of success, narratives of sustainability and survival

Advances in stem cell science and tissue engineering are being turned into applications and products through a novel medical paradigm known as regenerative medicine. This paper begins by examining the vulnerabilities and risks encountered by the regenerative medicine industry during a pivotal moment in its scientific infancy: the 2000s. Under the auspices of New Labour, British medical scientists and life science innovation firms associated with regenerative medicine, received demonstrative rhetorical pledges of support, aligned with the publication of a number of government initiated reports presaged by Bioscience 2015: Improving National Health, Increasing National Wealth. The Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry (and its successors) held industry consultations to determine the best means by which innovative bioscience cultures might be promoted and sustained in Britain. Bioscience 2015 encapsulates the first chapter of this sustainability narrative. By 2009, the tone of this storyline had changed to one of survivability. In the second part of the paper, we explore the ministerial interpretation of the ‘bioscience discussion cycle’ that embodies this narrative of expectation, using a computer-aided content analysis programme. Our analysis notes that the ministerial interpretation of these reports has continued to place key emphasis upon the distinctive and exceptional characteristics of the life science industries, such as their ability to perpetuate innovations in regenerative medicine and the optimism this portends – even though many of the economic expectations associated with this industry have remained unfulfilled.

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