Global bioethics

Medical Research Council (MRC) units in The Gambia and Uganda carry out vital research into diseases of major impact in the developing world, underpinned by work in our units and universities in the UK. MRC produces good practice guidance for researchers working in this area, and also works with partners in Africa and Europe on solutions to ethical questions that can arise when conducting research in developing countries.

The Global Forum on Bioethics in Research

This Global Forum on Bioethics in Research is a partnership founded in 1999 by a number of organisations with a shared interest in the ethical conduct of research involving people in developing countries. The forum meets annually to debate a chosen topic, with partners contributing funds to enable participants from lower and middle income countries to attend.

MRC was one of the forum’s founding partners, along with the Fogarty International Center and other members of the US National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the South African MRC, and the Pan American Health Organization. Over the years many other organisations have become partners or contributed, including the Wellcome Trust, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (France), the European Commission, the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, the Council on Health Research for Development, and the Aga Khan University.

At its annual meetings, the forum has discussed many of the key issues in international collaborative research:

  • the difficulties in creating ethical guidelines and review processes in developing countries
  • the standard of care to be provided during clinical trials
  • traditional medicines
  • genomics and global health
  • benefit sharing and intellectual property
  • culture and informed consent.

MRC guidance for researchers

Equitable Partnerships

Ethical principles and guidance provided by the UKRI Good Research Resource Hub for researchers carrying out studies in lower and middle income countries, with a selection of essential key sources for further reading.

MRC policy on antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people infected with HIV

MRC developed this advice after being approached by researchers in The Gambia and Uganda. It addresses standards of care and ethical values in research on AIDS in developing countries, and also covers clinical management of patients who develop AIDS during the course of research programmes investigating other diseases.

China UK Research Ethics (CURE) committee report

The capacity for medical research in China is developing rapidly. It is crucial that any such collaborations between the UK and China work to agree the appropriate standards of research ethics and governance.

China UK Research Ethics (CURE) committee report.

Last updated: 17 August 2023

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