Medical Breakthroughs

Can regulators and ethicists keep up with advances?


The breakthroughs seem like science fiction: editing genes of human embryos to erase disease; controlling a computer cursor with one's thoughts; enabling paralyzed people to walk by fitting them with a robotic “exoskeleton”; using the body's immune system to cure cancer. As fantastic as such advances may seem, however, they are rapidly becoming reality. Yet, medical advances face big hurdles, including steep development costs. President Trump has proposed a 22 percent cut in the National Institutes of Health budget, which funds basic medical research, though Congress wants an increase. Congress also wants the Food and Drug Administration to speed up its regulatory review of new drugs and devices, but some consumer advocates worry that could result in unsafe products. Meanwhile, safety and ethical concerns about ...

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