Degree course: 
Corso di First cycle degree in BIOTECHNOLOGY
Academic year when starting the degree: 
Academic year in which the course will be held: 
Course type: 
Compulsory subjects, characteristic of the class
First Semester
Standard lectures hours: 
Detail of lecture’s hours: 
Lesson (32 hours)

To better understand the ethical and historical issues raised during the course, students will need to have knowledge of cell biology and genetics and a good general culture, supported by the constant habit of reading informative media, essays and narrative texts.

Final Examination: 

In line with the objectives and methods indicated above, the exam consists of a double test (one for the ethics section and one for the historical section). Failure to pass one of the two parts of the exam leads to an overall negative judgment and the repetition of the entire exam in "Ethics and Human Sciences" at a subsequent appeal. The result in marks (resulting from the qualitatively weighted average between the two disciplines) of the exam will be out of thirty. The oral and written exam is aimed at assessing the skills achieved by the student in relation to: 1. knowledge and understanding of the ethical-historical-humanistic dimensions of bio-technological progress. 2. ability to apply the acquired knowledge to dilemmatic cases, problems and social and professional situations. 3. ability to reconstruct the argumentative and debating logic (the pros and cons of a moral or historical-anthropological conflict) and to defend or criticize a specific moral or epistemological option.

Voto Finale

An undergraduate degree in biomedical disciplines requires consistent humanistic completion. The aim is to train ethical-anthropological reasoning in work situations and research in the technological field. The skills sought as an objective and promoted by the course consist of the following: identify a recurring moral and historical-cultural problem in working practice, justify one's evaluation in the light of principles, rules, world views and ethical and historical theories, compose a divergence in within the team, recognize the presence of historical-cultural factors within the practices of scientific study and technical application, acquire a suitable language for carrying out a constructive dialogue.
At the end of the course, the student will hopefully be able to:
- Recognize and use conceptual and practical elements of a humanistic nature (ethical, historical, anthropological) in order to exercise an adequate understanding (and not just explanation) of events, phenomena and events full of moral significance;
- apply knowledge and interpretative tactics in a flexible way to situations, cases and individual or institutional stories marked by value conflicts, exercising empathic skills, argumentative skills, rhetorical tools, debating skills, historical memories;
- expose and deepen, through rational arguments, their personal point of view, participating in the pluralistic debate in the social arena;
- communicate controversial points of view with participation, coherence and competence, in order to trigger an interdisciplinary and pluralistic reflection and discussion in the institutional and working places where the learner will carry out his profession.

Definition of ethics and bioethics (objectives and method); status of the human embryo; scientific aspects and ethical issues on embryonic stem cells; bioethics of reproductive biotechnologies and medically assisted procreation; euthanasia and excessive treatment; organ transplants; ethical and social debate on the use of organoids; informed consent and living will; research biobanks and ethical consultancy; clinical-pharmacological experimentation; human rights; animal rights; Ethics Committees; research integrity; cloning and genome project; genetic tests; gene therapy and gene editing; genetic doping and human enhancement; bioethics of GMOs; vaccines and public health issues; NanoEthics, NeuroEthics and RoboEthics; professional ethics and analysis of the deontological code of biotechnologists; National Committee for Bioethics (CNB) and National Committee for Biosafety, Biotechnologies and Life Sciences (CNBBSV).

The links and events through which the doctrines of healthy and sick man have passed: the profound changes that have emerged over time. The main stages of the biological sciences, from the ancient philosophy of nature to the scientific revolution of the modern world. The Galilean method and the use of optical magnification. The progress of knowledge of the human body and physiology; the blood flow. Ancient therapeutic methods (blood-letting) and the modern concepts of blood, intended as replacement therapy and medicine. Transfusion and the technical-scientific evolution of methodologies for collecting, storing and transporting blood components. The experimental method and the first attempts at mechanical interpretation of vital phenomena (iatromechanics and iatrochemistry); the controversies around the theory of spontaneous generation. The vaccines. The organ and cell pathology. The new nineteenth-century scientific dimension: the "birth of the clinic" and the revolution of hospitals, the new safety of surgery, the identification of infectious agents. The conversation between the clinic and the laboratory. An example of biomedical research in the experience of some Italian scientists. The victorious paths of the twentieth century: new knowledge of the biological mechanisms of protection from diseases, the effective results of prevention and therapies, the discovery of antibiotics and to organ transplants. The introduction of technologies that have dominated the clinical context.An insight at the new century, which draws from the frontiers of immunology, molecular biology and bioengineering, with an acute sensitivity for the dimensions of biotechnology, also in the face of certain persistent uncertainties in medicine.


In order to reach the expected level of learning, ideas, principles, styles of reasoning, argumentative logic, linguistic ambiguities, models of conduct and questions raised in a pluralistic context will be presented during the lectures. Each exhibition passage will be followed by the debate in the classroom, with the relative objections, clarifications, counter-arguments, further examples, testimonies, indication of training material. The presentation of practical cases will allow the application of the theories to dilemmatic situations for a biotechnology operator, as well as propitiate the expression and interpretation of personal emotional responses and the opening in the classroom of a pluralistic debate both on an ethical and historical-anthropological level.

Interviews, further information, discussions on specific topics will preferably take place by appointment (via e-mail requests to and at the Antonini pavilion, via Rossi 9, 21100 Varese. Teachers reply only to signed e-mails coming from the @ domain