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Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences

Faculty of Law

On 7 and 8 April 2016, LML and the Centre for Medical Ethics & Law (The University of Hong Kong) held an international conference in Hong Kong on the legal and ethical challenges facing the realisation of precision medicine.

The aim of precision medicine is to revolutionise disease treatment and prevention by utilising personal variation in factors such as an individual’s genetic information, biochemistry, environment and lifestyle. Genomic data, for example, can be used to determine predispositions to particular diseases, predict the efficacy and safety of different treatment options, and develop drugs that are targeted to the fundamental biology of diseases rather than their clinical manifestations. In these and other ways, scientific and technological advances have the potential to bring about an unprecedented tailoring of medical treatment and health care to the individual characteristics of patients. 

In order to realise the full potential of precision medicine though, we must rethink components of the legal and ethical foundation on which it will be built. The reason for this is that our current legal and ethical frameworks were built with a very different generation of medical products and practices in mind. 

At this conference, world experts convened to identify and explore the challenges that precision medicine brings to the fore.  The first day of the conference explored implementation challenges, focusing on (1) The Healthcare System, and (2) Medical Treatment.   The second day explored development challenges, focusing on (1) Foundational Research, and (2) Translational Medicine.  Keynote addresses were given on each of these four topics by, respectively, Professor Hank Greely (Stanford University), Professor Glenn Cohen (Harvard University), Professor Bartha Knoppers (McGill University) and Professor Don Chalmers (University of Tasmania).

 A full conference report will follow shortly. In the meantime, details of the conference can found here.