1st Conference on Reproductive Technologies and Stem Cell Research

BIONET Conference, Changsha

Hunan Institute of Reproduction and Stem Cell Engineering
Changsha, 1–3 April 2008

BIONET Conference Report, Changsha

In April 2008, BIONET held its first international conference in Changsha, Hunan Province. Around 100 scientists, legal experts, social scientists, philosophers and regulators gathered on the outskirts of Changsha for three days at an event hosted by the Institute of Reproduction and Stem Cell Engineering, Central South University & the Reproductive and Genetic Hospital CITIC-Xiangya. Participants heard keynote speeches from among many others Prof. Lu Guangxiu (Institute of Reproduction and Stem Cell Engineering, Central South University, Changsha), Dr. Stephen Minger (Stem Cell Biology Laboratory, King’s College London), Prof. Sheng Huizhen, and Prof. Moustapha Kassem (Medical Biotechnology Centre, University of Southern Denmark).

Stem cell research holds great promise in an ongoing and increasingly global quest for treatments for a number of debilitating degenerative diseases – from muscular dystrophy to Alzheimer’s disease and spinal cord injuries. It is hoped that once scientists have understood the self-renewing and ‘pluri-potent’ powers of stem cells (to form into any kind of human cell), they will be able to harness and direct them to treat human diseases which currently have no cure.

“We look forward to the future of biomedical technology. People live on the same earth and share in all biomedical outcomes. We need more mutual understanding and respect to seek Great Harmony and to reserve our differences on minor points for the progress of all human beings,” said conference host Prof. Lu Guangxiu.

One of the concrete outcomes from the conference will be an interim report from BIONET’s Expert Group who are currently working on a set of recommendations for “best practice in the Ethical Governance of Europe-China Research Collaborations in the Life Sciences and Biomedicine”. The BIONET Expert Group, which is chaired by Prof. Christoph Rehmann-Sutter, University of Basel (Switzerland) and co-chaired by Prof. Qiu Renzong, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Beijing), consists of ten Chinese and European members.

“Collaborations between East and West in biomedicine and biotechnology need collaboration also in bioethics. In sensitive questions of stem cell and embryo research, differences in law and culture exist. But the ethical concerns are not so far from each other,” said Prof. Christoph Rehmann-Sutter, Professor of Philosophy and Head of the Unit for Ethics in the Biosciences, University of Basel.