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Immunitary bioeconomy: the economisation of life in the international cord blood market

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date04/2011
JournalSocial science & medicine (1982)
Journal number7
Volume72
Number of pages8
Pages1115-1122
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper examines an emerging bioeconomy centred on the international banking and trade in cord blood. Since the late 1980s cord blood has been used in an expanding range of treatments and as an alternative to the use of bone marrow stem cells. This is particularly the case in treating ethnic minority populations who have historically been under-represented in bone marrow registries. The paper explores the mobilisation and commercialisation of an increasingly important bioeconomic resource with cord blood units trading internationally at high prices. This is a market mediated through a sophisticated global network of immunologically typed and matched bodily matter in which immunity has become a form of 'corporeal currency'. Based on recent international figures we reflect upon the balance of trade between imports and exports across the world's cord blood bioeconomy. Theoretically, this case is, we suggest, an extension of what Roberto Esposito (2008) has termed an 'immunitary paradigm' in which immunity has become the basis for new forms of bioeconomic flow, circulation and exchange. Esposito (2008). Bios: Biopolitics and Philosophy. Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press.