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Ethics of European-Chinese biomedical research collaborations

A new European and Chinese Expert Group on ethics of research in biomedicine and biotechnology has been set up, involving LSE academics from BIOS.

The new Ethical Expert Group is part of BIONET, a Coordinated Action Project, funded by the European Union research framework program 6. BIONET is a 21-partner European-Chinese collaboration on ethical governance in the life sciences, coordinated by LSE and involving leading Chinese institutions such as Hunan Institute of Reproduction and Stem Cell Engineering (Changsha), Peking University Health Science Centre, Union Medical College (Beijing) and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Beijing).

LSE's Dr Ayo Wahlberg is secretary of the Ethical Expert Group. He said: 'The idea is for people from different cultures to work together to tackle some of the most challenging issues in biomedical research ethics, issues such as the latest developments in reproductive medicine, genomics, biobanking, and stem cell research. It will provide an opportunity for mutual learning, and the group is working on the assumption that this process can help provide better solutions for both sides.'

The new group was formally constituted at a meeting in Beijing over Easter and is composed of ten members from the fields of medicine, ethics, law, political science and social science. They will work towards guidelines for best practice in ethical governance of collaborative research between China and Europe, foster mutual understanding and provide opportunities to learn from each other. Results are expected within less than three years.

A series of conferences and workshops are planned in Beijing, Shanghai, Changsha and other places in China and Europe, the first of which was hosted by Peking University Health Care Centre in April. Its focus was on questions of informed consent and ethical review boards in assisted reproductive technologies and biomedical research. The workshop was attended by 20 experts from Europe and about 27 clinical practitioners and bioethicists from China.

The Expert Group is co-chaired by Professor Qiu Renzong of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Professor Christoph Rehmann-Sutter, a professor of bioethics at the University of Basel/Switzerland and also president of the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics.

Professor Rehmann-Sutter is trained both in molecular biology and in philosophy he is a specialist for communication in bioethics and biopolitics. He said: 'Communication, based on listening to the concerns of others in different cultural contexts, is a root from which ethics can grow. It is itself an ethical act.'

Professor Lu Guangxiu said: 'Though bioethics emerged a little late in China, in recent years our government has made great efforts to develop bioethics working with scholars in related fields. Now with the support of the government and efforts of scholars, we have seen how bioethics has really provided guidance in biomedical research and practice. I believe BIONET will improve mutual communication and help to standardise practice so that we can protect the interests of common people.'




BIONET is a network of European and Chinese researchers which will work to undertake research, training, workshops and conferences, together with the production of relevant materials and documentation, on the ethical governance of research in the life sciences and biomedicine within and between China and European countries. The project is from October 2006 to September 2009.

Ethics Expert Group members:

  • Professor Lu Guangxiu, Institute of Human Reproduction and Stem Cell Engineering, Changsha
  • Professor Professor Qiu Renzong, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (co-chair)
  • Professor Cong Yali, Peking University Health Science Centre
  • Professor Zhai Xiaomei, Peking Union Medical College, Research Centre for Bioethics, Beijing
  • Dr Ole Döring, Institute of Asian Affairs, Hamburg, Germany
  • Professor Herbert Gottweis, Department of Political Science, University of Vienna, Austria
  • Professor Wolfgang Hennig, Institute of Genetics, University of Mainz, Germany & CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology, Shanghai, China
  • Professor Genevra Richardson, School of Law, King's College, United Kingdom
  • Professor Christoph Rehmann-Sutter, Unit for Ethics in the Biosciences, University of Basel, Switzerland (co-chair)


18 April 2007