Ilana Löwy was trained as a biologist and as a historian of science and medicine. Her main research interests include the relationship between laboratory investigations and clinical practices during the twentieth century, starting with the bacteriological revolution; the history of bacteriology and immunology; the history of medicine and the biomedical sciences in “peripheral” countries (Latin American and Eastern European countries); and gender and biomedicine.
At the Radcliffe Institute, Löwy will investigate the development of the notion of hereditary risk of cancer in a historical and comparative perspective. Debates about genetic tests for hereditary risk of cancer have usually centered on evaluation of individual responses, on psychological variable, and on the risk/benefit ratio of genetic tests. Löwy’s project, grounded in the comparison of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, proposes a different approach focused on the history of the development of the notion of “cancer risk” and its inscription in material cultures of biomedicine and in the organization of health care.
Löwy is a senior researcher at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Medicale (INSERM) in France and is affiliated with the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS). Her publications include Between Bench and Bedside: Science, Healing, and Interleukin -2 in a Cancer Ward (Harvard University Press, 1996) and Virus, Mosquitoes, and Modernity: Yellow Fever in Brazil Between Science and Politics (2001, in French). She is now co-coordinating a European network on medical innovations (ITEMS) and a program on the history of health risks.