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Life Sciences Innovation and Social Justice


Theo Papaioannou, Development Policy and Practice, The Open University (Principal Investigator)


This project is funded by the ESRC INNOGEN Centre. All content on this page is the sole responsibility of the investigators.

Summary and aims

This project examines the new challenges that bio-scientific knowledge poses to 'fair' distribution of opportunities and risks, benefits and costs in a global civil society. Furthermore, it assesses the impact of such distribution on poverty reduction and development.

Research questions

The project investigates whether existing theories of social justice still provide relevant guidance for social practice, given the rapid evolution of developments in genomics-based technologies such as stem cells, gene-based diagnostics and therapies. Specifically:

  1. Can contemporary liberal theories deal with the new possibility of just distribution of natural goods such as health?
  2. Whether libertarians, egalitarians and capability theorists can still provide relevant answers to the question of health care entitlements to new life science innovations such as genetic enhancements and gene therapy?
  3. Can Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) such as human gene patents be justified in terms of liberal morality?


Papaioannou, T. (forthcoming 2013) 'New Life Sciences Innovation and Distributive Justice: Rawlsian Goods Versus Senian Capabilities' Life Sciences, Society and Policy.

Papaioannou, T. (2009) 'The Impact of New Life Sciences Innovation on Political Theories of Justice' Genomics, Society and Policy, Vol.5, No.2, pp.40-52.

Papaioannou, T. (2008) 'Human Gene Patents and the Question of Liberal Morality', Genomics, Society and Policy, Vol.4, No.3, pp. 64-83.


Dr Theo Papaioannou,

Contact us

To find out more about our work, or to discuss a potential project, please contact:

International Development Research Office
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
United Kingdom

T: +44 (0)1908 858502