As in other areas of science, the conditions under which stem cell research develops are crucial to the development of its knowledge products. Material and intellectual resources, governance, and culture are factors that underlie the realization of science. The concept of bionetworking aims to capture these factors, and we use it to describe the evolution of the network activities of for-profit providers of stem cell therapy in the context of the three-stage evolution of scientific governance in China.
On the basis of empirical and archival research, we argue that international trends in stem cell regulation both hamper and stimulate the development of stem cell research in China. On the one hand, the Chinese government is put under pressure to set high, alien standards for its most advanced stem cell research laboratories and clinics; thus, only a few institutions are able to follow internationally dominant trends. On the other hand, unrealistic implementation has allowed widespread transgression of regulation, enabling researchers to gain clinical experience.
We illustrate how the networking activities of collaborative for-profit networks and translational research are fundamentally affected by the regulatory reforms in China, showing how governance, scientific development, and social conditions are closely intertwined. We argue that good governance in China does not necessarily mean following international regulatory trends to the letter.