Biomedical Platforms: Realigning the Normal and the Pathological in Late-twentieth-century Medicine
Since the end of World War II, biology and medicine have merged in remarkablyproductive ways. In this book Peter Keating and Alberto Cambrosio analyze the transformation ofmedicine into biomedicine and its consequences, ranging from the recasting of hospital architectureto the redefinition of the human body, disease, and therapeutic practices. To describe this newalignment between the normal and the pathological, the authors introduce the notion of thebiomedical platform. Defined as a specific configuration of instruments, individuals, and programs,biomedical platforms generate routines, entities, and activities, held together by standard reagentsand protocols. Biological entities such as cell surface markers, oncogenes, and DNA profiles nowexist as both normal biological components of the organism and as pathological signs -- that is, asbiomedical substances. The notion of a biomedical platform allows researchers interested in thedevelopment of contemporary medicine to describe events and processes overlooked by otherapproaches.The authors focus on a specific biomedical platform known as immunophenotyping. Theydescribe its emergence as an experimental system with roots in biology (immunology) and pathology(oncology). They recount how this experimental system was transformed into a biomedical platforminitially for the diagnosis of leukemia and subsequently for other diseases such as AIDS. Throughthis case study, they show that a biomedical platform is the bench upon which conventions concerningthe biological or normal are connected with conventions concerning the medical or pathological. Theyobserve that new platforms are often aligned with existing ones and integrated into an expanding setof clinical-biological strategies.