Making Cells Worthwhile: Calculations of Value in a European Consortium for Induced Pluripotent stem cell banking
The StemBANCC consortium was a large European consortium bringing together scientists from academic institutions and the pharmaceutical industry. The aim of the consortium was to produce 1500 induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines from participants with a variety of common, complex diseases. These cell lines were intended to help develop iPSC as tools for screening small molecule drug candidates and modelling human diseases in vitro. The scale of investment in this and other biobanks presents iPSC as a valuable commodity. However, StemBANCC was also mandated to make its making cells and data available to European researchers on a not-for-profit basis. To understand how making this quantity of stem cells and data available is configured as a valuable and worthwhile investment for the consortium partners, research materials (project documents, scientific literature and interviews with scientists working on StemBANCC) were analysed using theoretical tools from Valuation Studies. Combining STS and economic sociology, valuation studies analyse how the worth of things, ideas and phenomena result from context-specific practices of assessment and evaluation; worth incorporates moral, financial, scientific, economic. social and cultural registers of value. In this sense, practitioners evaluate the worth of the StemBANCC cells and data at a variety of sites, from participant recruitment to online databases. This provides an alternative to biovalue and similar conceptual models for theorising the generation of value in the Life Sciences.