CORDIS - EU research results

Red Revolution: The Emergence of Stem Cell Biotechnologies in India

Final Report Summary - RED REVOLUTION (Red Revolution: The Emergence of Stem Cell Biotechnologies in India)

Red Revolution is a conceptual and empirical incision into the rapidly globalising field of stem cell science and therapeutic care. With India as its main focus, the research’s main thrust is to show how myriad home-grown and global complexities are both facilitating, as well as disrupting, the ‘revolutionary’ promise of stem cells. The project delves into a range of critical issues stalking the emergence and diffusion of stem cell research and therapies across India, and how these relate to developments elsewhere in the world, most notably the Euro-American bio-scientific landscape. In so doing, the research situates stem cells in a number of diverse locales, such as the political economy of health in India, the biomedical politics within the public and private sectors in India and beyond, emerging governance frameworks to control the application of these technologies transnationally, and the global mass media as a field for promoting and contesting stem cells. Taken together, these locales unravel the resurgent nature of Indian scientific polity within which a diverse group of stakeholders (ranging from the Indian and Euro-American states to scientists, clinicians, policy mavens from around the globe, and local and global patients) compete, contest and connect to appropriate stem cell technologies for political and economic as well as reputational and therapeutic gain.
The local, national and global, most notably Euro-American, science policy prescriptions in the arena of stem cell research have rapidly cohered around the notion of robust regulation and standardised ethical oversight. The research pays particular attention to such an emergence within the policy landscape, national and regional differences notwithstanding. In so doing, the endeavour is to inject a cautionary note in the face of two popular and explicit suggestions that see vigorous governance of stem cells based on common acceptable principles and instruments as enabling good scientific practice and transnational partnerships, as well as the standardisation and globalisation of ethical concerns. The research suggests that one of these aims, international alliances boosting good scientific practice, is often unachievable given the woeful lack of a level playing field; the other, the regularisation of ethical concerns, is undesirable. This is because in order to better understand science policy and regulation, we also need to appreciate how power structures set definite limits to individual and collective negotiating capacities. The subsequent manoeuvring produces seemingly new norms, but these reassert the hegemonic view that either seeks to co-opt the emerging new norm in its own image or reject it altogether, thus stifling the true revolutionary potential of an innovative science in the making by staying too close to the acceptable and consensual normative principles.
In a rapidly transforming world both globally dispersed manoeuvrings and the indigenous push to truncate a purportedly consensual view of stem cell science and therapeutic care is producing consequences for both Indian and Euro-American investments in stem cells. The research reveals how issues ranging from governance through to actual bench-to-bedside translations of ongoing scientific research is maturing and inaugurating a new phase in post-colonial science in India. The project is setting the research agenda for future endeavours interested in mapping a series of stakeholders and research sites that are key to collaborative work between Indian biotechnology innovation and European research and development expertise. In the present context, these range from in-depth analyses of current developments in scientific work, clinical applications, patient perspectives and activism, both local and transnational, to ‘medical tourism’ or medical migrations to India from Europe and beyond, emerging policy and governance protocols, and economic opportunities and commercial viability of the medical biotechnology landscape in India and its long-term impact on Euro-Indian collaborative frameworks.