The Evolution and Development of Biolaw

Posted: 15 May 2010

See all articles by Andrew W. Torrance

Andrew W. Torrance

University of Kansas School of Law; MIT Sloan School of Management

Date Written: May 15, 2010


Biolaw has come of age as an academic discipline. This rapidly growing legal discipline possesses a Janus nature that encompasses both the law of biology and the biology of law. Advances in the biological sciences, such as genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, synthetic biology, biological engineering, reproductive biology, embryology, developmental biology, systems biology, evolutionary biology, ecology, behavioral ecology, ethology, and neurobiology continually challenge both society and the laws that attempt to order, regulate, and protect it. Biolaw combines the use of biological science to describe, analyze, and improve the law with legal analysis of biological science, its institutions, and its societal implications. It integrates insights from such biologically-informed research areas as law and genetics, law and neuroscience, reproductive law, behavioral economics, cognitive psychology, law and biotechnology, biotechnology patent law, neuroethics, and biodiversity law. Building on early advocacy of the field by academics such as Hank Greely and June Carbone, the field is currently experiencing a renaissance in interest both inside and outside the academy. Indicia of its new prominence include a large and growing constituency among legal academics, academic conferences (i.e., Law and the Life Sciences, held in 2007 at the University of Louisville School of Law; Biolaw: Law at the Frontiers of Biology, held annually at the University of Kansas School of Law in 2007, 2008, and 2009), weblogs (e.g., Biolaw: Law and the Life Sciences), a scholarly listserv (i.e., the Biolaw Listserv), and high attendance at Biolaw “open programs” at the 2008, 2009, and 2010 American Association of Law Schools annual meetings. Perhaps the most official recognition of biolaw as a legal discipline is the proposed creation of an official AALS Biolaw Section. As advances in the biological sciences increasingly challenge the vocabulary, legal regulation, and understandings of the role of biology in society, and the law increasingly attends to the regulation of these challenges, biolaw is likely to emulate the growth of cyberlaw as an important and prominent scholarly discipline within the legal academy.

Suggested Citation

Torrance, Andrew W., The Evolution and Development of Biolaw (May 15, 2010). Gruter Institute Squaw Valley Conference 2010: Law, Institutions & Human Behavior, Available at SSRN:

Andrew W. Torrance (Contact Author)

University of Kansas School of Law ( email )

Green Hall
1535 W. 15th Street
Lawrence, KS 66045-7577
United States

MIT Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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