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‘Big data’ or ‘big knowledge’? Brazilian genomics and the process of academic marketization

Original Article

DOI: 10.1057/s41292-017-0037-4

Cite this article as:
Bicudo, E. BioSocieties (2017). doi:10.1057/s41292-017-0037-4


‘Biocapital’, ‘biovalue’ and ‘bioeconomics’ are examples of terms formulated to interpret the commercial exploration of genomics science. Although highlighting important aspects, these terms tend to suggest the triumph of the market logic, which would have tamed all other logics. In this paper, it is argued that national and global markets obviously draw on economic rationales but can also be shaped by other rationales such as the academic logic. I analyse the genomics complex (formed by the combination between genomics inquiry, DNA sequencing and bioinformatics) in Brazil. A process of academic marketization is identified, four manifestations of which are analysed. First, academic interests have played a major role in the definition of themes to be investigated in Brazil at the expense of companies’ interests. Second, academics have prioritized human health studies at the expense of agrarian studies. Third, academic demands have expanded the importation of DNA sequencing devices to Brazil. Fourth, these demands have conducted Brazil towards an increasing and subaltern involvement in the global market of sequencing services. Markets are surely shaped by actors wishing to maximize profits. At times, however, they can also be modified by actors decisively moved by academic goals such as scientific prestige or access to research tools. A crucial challenge is that access to hight-throughput technologies (big data) does not necessarily lead to the formulation of theories of considerable scientific and political import (big knowledge).


big data genomics bioinformatics Brazil genetic companies globalization 

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political EconomyKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of Sao PauloSao PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Brazilian Centre of Analysis and Planning (Cebrap)Sao PauloBrazil

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