Regulation of Biomaterials in the Age of Datafied Bodies: Reformulating the Discourse

Ms Maeghan Toews1

1University Of Adelaide Law School, Adelaide, Australia

Purpose of Presentation: To bring new insights into the debate about how biomaterials ought to be regulated by incorporating a ‘datafied’ conception of the human body into the discussion.

Nature/Scope: This presentation will highlight how evolving biotechnologies are changing the way the human body is conceptualised from a focus on the body’s physicality to a focus on the information the body represents, and discuss the ways in which this changing conceptualisation is challenging existing legal frameworks and discourse.

Issue/Problem Considered: While a tissue sample was once limited by its physicality, diminishing in size each time it was used in research, it can now be genetically represented in digital form, allowing for indefinite storage and infinite sharing. Advancements in biotechnology, genetics/genomics and data analytics are presenting serious challenges to traditional consent-based models of protecting individual privacy interests in separated biomaterials. While property law tends to dominate relevant discourse as a potential solution to concretize the illusive rights and interests in these materials, the informational dimension and value of biomaterials is largely absent from these discussions. Given that biomaterials are prized mostly for their informational value, the lack of engagement in property discourse with informational interests is notable and potentially problematic.

Outcome/Conclusion: The various realms of discussion (consent-models, privacy law, property law) as to how to regulate biological materials and genetic information appear disconnected, and there may be value in bringing these respective areas of discourse together under a reformulated understanding of the body that better accounts for its informational value.


Bio to come.

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