Advanced biological and biomedical research focusing in particular upon reproductive and regenerative medicine, clinical trials and the genomics of disease susceptibility is a key national, commercial and scientific priority in both China and Europe. Such research raises many challenges for ethical governance of scientific and medical practice, many of which have particular relevance to ensuring best practice in EU-China scientific collaborations.
BIONET is a Consortium of 21 EU and Chinese partners examining the challenges facing the ethical governance of research in the life sciences and biomedicine in China and the EU. It is funded under the European Commission Sixth Framework programme with support from the United Kingdom’s Medical Research Council. As a sustainable network within and between China and Europe, BIONET will focus on three key areas: reproductive and regenerative medicine, clinical trials and biobanks and the genomics of disease susceptibility and treatability, in a collaborative effort that can:
- map the rationales for and practices of ethical governance of such advanced biological and biomedical research in China
- provide a platform for the development of comparative research on ethical governance in China and the EU
- advance social scientific understanding of key bioethical issues, challenges and approaches generated in contemporary biomedical research through dialogue between researchers and practitioners in China and the EC
- undertake training of researchers and practitioners in key issues
- inform policy and practice in the ethics of biomedical research in China and the EU with particular relevance for scientific collaboration.
The initial scientific focus of the network will be on issues in biomedicine, in particular new reproductive technologies, stem cells, clinical trials and genomic research on disease susceptibility. The initial bioethical focus will be on informed consent, benefit sharing and intellectual property, data protection and ethical standards for the conduct, review and evaluation of biomedical research. Other issues will be addressed once the network is established and its viability demonstrated.
Workshops within China will bring together researchers, practitioners, ethicists, social scientists and policy makers to compile and evaluate research and evidence on contemporary policies and practices for the ethical governance of advanced biomedical research, and to explore key issues of the ethical regulation of contemporary biomedical research between Chinese and European practitioners and researchers, and to build capacity among participants. A Europe-China database on the ethical governance of research will be created.
Findings will be disseminated through international conferences held in China on research ethics in biomedicine and the ethical governance of biomedical research. A European Chinese Expert Group on ethical governance of contemporary biomedical research will be established. The network will facilitate exchanges of personnel, research findings between Europe and China and assist in the development of joint collaborative research projects.
Capacity building in both Europe and China is central to this project: building capacity through comparative analysis and dialogue to research and evaluate the regulation of biomedical research in China and in Europe in the light of a clearer understanding of national, cultural and international issues affecting regulation and ethics.