(San Diego, CA) — Four of the nation’s leading biomedical research institutions have joined hands to form the San Diego Research Ethics Consortium to support the ethical conduct of science in stem cell and other research programs. The Consortium’s first ethics conference will be held at the Salk Institute on April 6.
The four San Diego institutions, which comprise the newly founded ethics consortium, are The Burnham Institute for Medical Research, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Scripps Research Institute and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).
The consortium’s joint program will include ethics teaching, along with outreach and review of stem cell research, as well as research in other areas of science and technology. The unique program not only shares resources, but also shares the collective experience and judgment of four pre-eminent research institutions.
Michael Kalichman, Ph.D., is director of the UCSD Research Ethics Program and the founding director of the San Diego Research Ethics Consortium. According to Kalichman, there are few models of such joint ethics programs among other major research institutions in the country. “This joint program provides a model for what other people and institutions can and should do,” said UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox.
The San Diego Research Ethics Consortium will complement the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine’s training program for recipients of training grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which opened in January. Nearly one-third of that training program covers stem cell ethics. CIRM was established to implement Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell and Cures Initiative, which was passed into law in November 2004.
Representatives from the four institutions that have formed the new consortium stress that ethics is an integral part of stem cell research, not just an add-on. “Review of research involving the derivation of pluripotent human stem cells is not only a regulatory obligation, but an ethical obligation,” said Mary Devereaux, Ph.D., a bioethicist with the UCSD Research Ethics Program. Devereaux believes that conducting stem cell research is a privilege. “The citizens of California have given us the resources. It is our duty to use the resources responsibly and according to the highest scientific and ethical standards,” said Devereaux.
Although the joint ethics initiative grew out of research funding for stem cell research, the group will address ethics in all areas of research. Topic areas that will be addressed include human and animal subjects, data management and record-keeping, authorship, conflicts of interest, peer review and mentoring, and social responsibility.