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LML Members attend PHG Foundation Workshop on Regulating Algorithms in Healthcare

last modified Apr 24, 2018 03:56 PM

As the fundamental basis of all computerised tasks, algorithms are increasingly integral to healthcare. They perform functions at every level, from the research laboratory to the clinic; in rudimentary operating system processes to highly advanced analytical systems. Despite their prevalence, the precise definition of an algorithm is increasingly contentious, and this lack of clarity has ramifications for how algorithms in healthcare are developed and regulated.

Determining the ownership of an algorithm, who is liable if it fails, how patient data is handled and the patient’s right to explanation when looking at black box techniques are all major concerns, with unclear answers.

Working to address these issues, the PHG Foundation - a close collaborator with LML - hosted the first of two stakeholder workshops on Tuesday 20th March. 'Regulating algorithms in healthcare - the GDPR and IVDR in practice' was attended by Dr Kathy Liddell (LML Director), Dr Jeff Skopek (LML Deputy Director), Prof. Mateo Aboy, Dr Cristina Crespo, and Dr David Erdos. During this workshop, academics and regulators convened to consider such key issues as:

  • Does the GDPR contain a right to explanation?
  • Might counterfactual explanation satisfy a right to explanation?
  • How does the IVDR (and MDR) intended purpose test for the definition of IVD compare with the FDA’s risk-based strategy?
  • Is the intended purpose text flexible enough to adequately regulate mHealth and other algorithms that might be used for human health?
  • Consider the difficulties of validation of software under the MDR/IVDR.
  • Consider the difficulties of surveillance of software under the MDR/IVDR.

The PHG Foundation will publish a briefing note on 'what is an algorithm' in April 2018, and the next stakeholder workshop ('Regulating algorithms in healthcare - Liability and intellectual property') is scheduled for September 2018.

The Development of Abortion Rights in a Changing Europe

last modified Mar 28, 2018 10:10 PM

LML is delighted to announce our collaboration on an upcoming conference on "The Development of Abortion Rights in a Changing Europe", to be held in Cambridge in September 2018. 

The conference, organised by a team headed by second year Law student Helen Jennings, will explore what human rights law has to say on the issue of abortion in 2018, with consideration given to issues including the upcoming referendum on Ireland's 8th Amendment, and the impact of Brexit on abortion law across the UK and Ireland. Discussion will not be limited to the legal framework in Ireland and Northern Ireland, although the issue is currently at the cutting-edge of legal debate there.

The provision of abortion services for women, including the extent to which one can consider abortion a "right", is one of the foremost human rights issues facing citizens of the United Kingdom and Ireland today. To this end, the conference will be entirely focused on the legal frameworks in place, their interaction with human rights law, and the potential of recent legal and political developments and litigation to change the law.

The conference team has launched a crowdfunding page which can be found here, and are welcoming donations from any interested parties.

Professor Glenn Cohen Delivers 2018 Baron de Lancey Lecture

last modified Mar 15, 2018 12:26 PM

Glenn Cohen BdL cropped


On Friday March 9th, the Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences hosted the 2018 Baron de Lancey Lecture, organised in collaboration with Cambridge Family Law, and kindly sponsored by the Ver Heyden de Lancey Fund. This year, Professor Glenn Cohen delivered his thought-provoking talk 'Parenthood Disrupted(?) Dilemmas of Reproductive Technologies'.

Professor Cohen began by explaining - from a technological perspective - the progress of human reproduction and what the future may hold. He covered topics including in vitro fertilisation, uterine transplantation, mitochondrial replacement therapy, and in vitro gametogenesis. 

He then discussed how reproductive technology has 'unbundled' the rights associated with gestational, genetic and legal parentage.

Whereas in the past one's genetic, gestational and legal mother was one and the same woman, and one's genetic and legal father would often be the same man, this is often not the case with modern and emerging reproductive technologies. Already there are technologies which result in a child having a handful of 'parents'.  And in the future, one's genetic 'mother' and even one's gestational 'mother' could be a man. 

In the third and final part of his lecture, Professor Cohen discussed whether and how legal and political theory can help resolve the controversies which arise from the 'unbundling' of parentage. He also discussed different regulatory approaches by which the State could facilitate or limit modern reproductive technologies. He also noted a variety of ways in which the State's regulatory decision could be made. He showed how the judgement of which approach is 'preferable', links to one's preferred view of the State and its place in supporting, or controlling, reproductive freedoms. And also to ones view about the importance of reproductive choices for equality, and human well-being.  

Professor Cohen commended several aspects of the UK regulatory system and the way that the State in this country has made a serious effort to consult the public as well as a wide variety of experts. On the other hand, he challenged the UK legal system for requiring decision-makers to consider the welfare of the future child as if this was the most central consideration. His point was that: provided the future child is better off alive than not alive, the future child's welfare is not harmed by the reproductive technology. There are however many other issues which the law and the State should be considering. By focussing so much on the welfare of the future child, the UK legal system was at risk of overemphasising the unimportant, and overlooking the important.  The audience found this part of his lecture highly controversial. To put less emphasis on the importance of the future child struck them as uncaring, politically unacceptable, and ignorant. In a lively Q&A session, Professor Cohen defended his point in a robust and thoughtful way. (Interested readers are encouraged to view the lecture!)

Video recording of the lecture is available here and on the University SMS site.

A full gallery of photographs from the evening can be viewed here

LML participates in thought-provoking conference on bio-innovation law in Copenhagen

last modified Sep 14, 2018 05:10 PM



On Monday 5th March 2018, three LML members (Dr Kathy Liddell, Professor Mateo Aboy, and Dr John Liddicoat) participated in an international conference on bio-innovation law, hosted by the University of Copenhagen.

The event marked the commencement of CeBIL, the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Collaborative Research Programme in Biomedical Innovation Law; a substantial international collaboration between the University of Copenhagen's Law Faculty (principal organisation), Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School, the University of Cambridge's Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences, the University of Michigan, and the University of Copenhagen's Department of Food and Resource Economics (IFRO), alongside a broad network of stakeholder organisations and international experts within law, economics, life sciences, medicine, sociology, and pharmacy. The collaboration is led by Professor Timo Minssen from the University of Copenhagen (formerly a LML Visiting Scholar).

Dr Kathy Liddell (Director of LML) will head CeBIL’s study on Repurposing Known Drugs (one of its five core studies), which will focus on the challenges of new medical use patents and feasible alternatives to support repurposing. She gave an introduction to the New Uses Study, and chaired a panel debate on Synergy and Policy Solutions.

Kathy’s presentation set out several reasons why new medical purpose patents are socially, ethically and legally controversial. Her presentation also sought to describe the contribution that LML hopes to make via its forthcoming CeBIL project, namely to: investigate the landscape of new medical purpose incentives including the corporate innovation context, national legal variations; analyse the implications of recent case law (for example, Warner-Lambert); assess the nature, source and extent of the incentive gap for developing new medical treatments; assess and evaluate the feasibility, efficacy and lawfulness of proposed legal policy solutions; and examine the ethical implications of alternative solutions and in particular their distributive 

Professor Mateo Aboy (Senior Research Scholar with LML) acts as a CeBIL special advisor, and  delivered the talk "Myriad's Impact on Gene Patents: Lessons to be learned from empirical studies".   Professor Aboy's topic has close links with two recent LML publications in Nature Biotechnology co-authored by Mateo, John Liddicoat, Kathy Liddell and Cristina Crespo. Mateo's presentation showcased LML's pioneering methodologies for patent landscaping, claims analysis and prosecution studies. The CeBIL team plan to use these methodologies to inform each of the five core studies, and to develop a sub-project in a sixth overarching study on Synergy and Policy Solutions.  

Presentations of particular interest to LML were Timo Minssen's talk and his explanation of how he sees CeBIL's research programme taking shape. Glenn Cohen's presentation was also of special interest as he spoke on a topic which has been at the heart of LML's research over the past 3 years, namely precision medicine. Glenn will lead CeBIL's study on precision medicine together with Nicholson Price (University of Michigan), Carmel Schacher (Petrie-Flom Centre, Harvard Law School) and Timo Minssen (University of Copenhagen). They plan to focus on legal and ethical issues which arise in the regulation of algorithms used in 'black box' precision medicine. It was also very interesting to hear Ben Roin's perspective on new medical use patents in the US. Kevin Outterson (a Cambridge Alumni) spoke on antibiotic innovation as did Aaron Kesselheim. A set of issues emerging for life science legal academics is those surrounding the manufacturing of biologics. Nicholson Price spoke informatively on these.

The next CeBIL event will be an Annual Symposium on Precision Medicine, to be hosted by LML in Cambridge in September 2018. If you are interested in attending please contact

LML awarded large research grant with University of Copenhagen

last modified Jan 24, 2018 04:17 PM

The Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences (LML) within the Faculty of Law has signed a ground-breaking collaboration agreement with the University of Copenhagen to address challenges in biomedical innovation law.

The collaboration is generously supported by a £4m grant awarded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation to Professor Timo Minssen, Director of the University of Copenhagen’s Centre for Advanced Studies in Biomedical Innovation Law (CeBIL). The collaboration is the foundation for a 5-year Research Programme. Other key partners include Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School, and University of Michigan Law School. Specialist advisors are based at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation & Competition, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, the University of Oxford, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Hong Kong, the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Public Health, and the Copenhagen Centre for Regulatory Sciences.

Headed by Professor Professor Minssen (Professor of Biotechnology Law at UCPH, and previous Visiting Scholar of the LML), CeBIL will contribute to the translation of biomedical research into safe, effective and affordable therapies. The partnership will analyse the most significant challenges facing pharmaceutical innovation and public health from a cross-disciplinary perspective, drawing on legal, biomedical, societal, and economic perspectives.

Dr Kathy Liddell (Director of the Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences) is Cambridge’s Principle Investigator. Welcoming the partnership, she said, “The overall vision and aim of CeBIL is well-matched with the research strategy of our own Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences; which was founded to advance our understanding of legal and ethical controversies at the forefront of medicine and the life sciences. The research undertaken by CeBIL will make a pioneering contribution to the field of biomedical innovation. We are delighted to be part of the enterprise”.

Drawing on her expertise in IP rights and the translation of medical discoveries, Dr Liddell will head CeBIL’s study on Repurposing Known Drugs (one of its five core studies), and will make significant contribution to its study on Synergy and Policy Solutions (a sixth overarching study). Dr Liddell said, “We look forward to appointing world leading research associates to work on the projects in Cambridge and to inviting world experts to speak at our annual symposia. We are fortunate to have an unmatchable environment for discussing the legal, ethical and economic challenges of biomedical innovation.”

Dr Jeffrey Skopek (Deputy Director of the LML) is a Co-Investigator at Cambridge. Speaking about the potential impact of the grant, he said: “Rapid advances in medicine and the life sciences, alongside changing societal attitudes towards health and medical care, pose deeply challenging questions of law, ethics, and policy. If CeBIL can help solve some of the challenges facing pharmaceutical innovation, the public benefit will be substantial.”

In developing this new research programme, LML will build on the foundations developed by a research group in the Centre that has been studying intellectual property issues surrounding genomic medicine for the past two years.  This group (consisting of Dr Kathy Liddell, Dr John Liddicoat, Dr Mateo Aboy, Dr Cristina Crespo, and Mr Matt Jordan) has published the results of some of its research in two articles in Nature Biotechnology: ‘Myriad’s impact on gene patents’ and ‘After Myriad, what makes a gene patent claim ‘markedly different’ from nature?’.

In addition, LML will draw on the rich intellectual environment provided by the wide range of Cambridge academics in the humanities and social sciences who are conducting research with relevance to biomedical innovation, past, present and future. These include colleagues in the Centre for Intellectual Property and Innovation Law (co-directed by Professor Lionel Bently and Dr Henning Grosse Ruse-Khan); the Cambridge Academy of Therapeutic Sciences; the Department for History and Philosophy of Science; and the PHG Foundation


CeBIL launched formally on January 1st 2018.

For more information, please visit the CeBIL website.

Stephanie Palmer joins Advisory Board on Behaviour Change Research

last modified Jan 23, 2018 09:10 AM

Dr Stephanie Palmer (LML Member) has been appointed to the Scientific Advisory Board for Behaviour Change by Design, a four-year research programme investigating "ways to 'nudge' people towards healthier behaviour". Dr Palmer will be contributing expertise in the area of Law and Public Health.

More information about the programme, which launched on January 17th, can be found here.

LML and CMEL publish report on Precision Medicine: Legal and Ethical Challenges

last modified Nov 17, 2017 10:25 AM

Following a conference hosted at the University of Hong Kong in April 2016, the Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences and Centre for Medical Ethics & Law (University of Hong Kong) have published a report on 'Precision Medicine: Legal and Ethical Challenges'.

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 help develop drugs that are targeted to the causes 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 health care to the individual characteristics of patients.

In order to realise the potential of precision medicine, however, 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.

This report provides a summary of the presentations that were given at the conference, and the key challenges that were explored in the roundtable discussions that followed the four categories of presentations, as well as some of the broader questions that emerged out of the conference.

LML Members to present at international synthetic biology and gene editing conference.

last modified Nov 13, 2017 11:19 AM

Two members of the LML are scheduled to present at an upcoming conference on 'Legal Perspectives on Synthetic Biology and Gene Editing', hosted by the Centre for Information and Innovation Law at the University of Copenhagen.

On November 20th, Dr Kathy Liddell (Director of the LML) will deliver a keynote speech on the topic of 'IP Policies for Large Bioresources: the fiction, fantasy and future of openness'. Dr John Liddicoat (LML Member) will participate in the panel 'IP and regulation in Gene Editing and Synthetic Biology', presenting 'A deep dive into the regulatory soup of precision medicine: are new gene-based technologies drowning?'.

Further information about the conference can be found here.

Publication success for recent Tripos student

last modified Nov 06, 2017 01:03 PM

An article written by Abby Selden, a recent Law Tripos Student and current Trainee Solicitor at Clifford Chance, has been published in the European Human Rights Law Review.

Selden's article titled 'Compulsory health checks, female genital mutilation and rights balancing at the European Court of Human Rights' was based upon her earlier dissertation, which was supervised by Dr Kathy Liddell (Director of LML) and completed as part of the Medical Law and Ethics seminar paper in 2014-15. Further assistance was provided by Dr Stephanie Palmer (LML Member) in preparing the dissertation for publication.

The LML extends its warmest congratulations to Abby on her recent publication success, the full citation for which is below:

A Selden, 'Compulsory health checks, female genital mutilation and rights balancing at the European Court of Human Rights', E.H.R.L.R. 2017, 5, 480-491.


LML Expands Consulting & Contract Services

last modified Nov 06, 2017 01:24 PM

The LML is pleased to announce that the Centre is expanding the range of consulting and contract services it is able to provide. Complementary to our 'Evidence-based IP' research area (led by Dr Mateo Aboy and Dr Kathy Liddell), examples of new services include patent searches and landscapes, and empirical IP legal studies.

The full range of consulting and contract services, and details about how to contact the LML to express interest, can be found here.

Colm McGrath debates whether THBT brain activity should be regarded as the indicator of human life

last modified Oct 13, 2017 09:36 AM

LML member Colm McGrath has been invited to participate in a public debate at University College London (UCL) on Monday 16th October. He will be opposing the motion ‘THBT brain activity is the measure of human life’.

More information about the public debates held by the UCL Debating Society can be found here.

Dr Liddell featured in University of Cambridge film: The Future of Medicine

last modified Oct 11, 2017 12:38 PM

The University of Cambridge has produced a short film, 'The Future of Medicine', documenting some of the research being undertaken at the university which is helping to guide and shape developments in this field. Dr. Kathy Liddell (Director of the LML) features in this production. She speaks about the importance of involving perspectives additional to scientific expertise when responding to the the risks, benefits, and trends with modern medicine. Legal and ethical perspectives are at the forefront of LML's work, and have a key role to play in the future governance of medicine. 

Nature Biotechnology publishes another article from LML Research Group

last modified Oct 05, 2018 12:46 PM

The LML is delighted to announce that Nature Biotechnology has accepted for publication a second article from an LML Research Group concerning the impacts of the US Supreme Court's decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v Myriad Genetics on patent practice.

The article, co-authored by Prof Mateo Aboy, Dr Jonathon Liddicoat, Dr Kathy Liddell, Dr Cristina Crespo, and Mr Matt Jordan, is the second in a series of publications by this team on the topic of the Myriad decision. The team's first paper, 'Myriad's impact on gene patents', was the first post-Myriad empirical patent landscape analysis, the findings which, published in November 2016, empirically confirmed previously untested predictions as to the impact of Myriad, and made methodological contributions to gene-related patent search strategies.   

The newly published article, 'After Myriad, what makes a gene patent claim ‘markedly different’ from nature?', builds upon this earlier study, with the aim of identifying the types of claim amendments which have successfully transformed isolated gene claims from ineligible subject matter into patent eligible inventions following Myriad. This empirical study analyses Myriad's impact at the claim level, and provides empirical answers to previously unanswered questions; including whether it is possible to draft around Myriad to obtain claims of an equal or similar scope, and how claims for simple, isolated nucleic acid sequences have been amended to become patent-eligible. 

Dr Palmer discusses recent Supreme Court decision on abortion funding

last modified Sep 22, 2017 12:29 PM

Dr Stephanie Palmer has written a blog post for the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL/AIDC) on  the question of whether women from Northern Ireland should have access to free National Health Service-funded abortions in England.  This issue addressed in the Supreme Court decision of R (on the application of A and B) v Secretary of State for Health,  raises important constitutional and human rights issues concerning the nature of devolution and the equality of women.

Dr Palmer's post can be found here.

David Erdos contributes to safeguarding academic research in new Data Protection framework

last modified Jul 20, 2017 03:49 PM
David Erdos contributes to safeguarding academic research in new Data Protection framework

Image courtesy of HKU/WYNG Foundation

David Erdos, a member of LML and incoming Deputy Director of CIPIL, has been engaged in a variety of activities during 2016-17 which have been aimed at ensuring that all types of academic research are effectively safeguarded when the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May 2018.  Much of this work has focused on the governance of humanities and social science scholarship, a wide-ranging area that can include certain types of health and medical humanities research. Other aspects of David’s work have specifically focused on the appropriate regulation of biomedical research within data protection.


Summary of Activities during 2016-17

In November 2016, David posted slides exploring the regulation of biomedical research under European data protection including an analysis of existing laws, Data Protection Authority (DPA) legal interpretations and DPA enforcement activity combined with some pointers to how things might and should evolve in the era of the GDPR. He also presented on “Reconciling Humanities and Social Science Research with Data Protection” at a workshop held at the University of Hong Kong.  The slides from this are available here.

In February 2017, David presented more generally on the interface between data protection and University research at a JISC Workshop on the GDPR held at the University of Leeds.

In May 2017, he also helped with the drafting of a joint British Academy/ESRC submission on the British Government’s Call for Views on the implementation of the GDPR in the UK which specifically focused on issues arising for humanities and social science research.

Finally, in June 2017, David spoke on a similar theme at a Full Fabric Workshop on The Impact of the GDPR in Higher Education which took place at Imperial College London as part of London EdTech week. He also spoke and took part in a CSaP Policy Workshop on ʻTransforming consent – legal and ethical aspectsʼ held at Trinity Hall Cambridge, which looked at changing the technical, legal and social context for the mobilisation of the use of personal data in medical research including, in particular, the coming impact of the GDPR.


Need to Look Beyond the ʻResearchʼ Derogations

These various interventions have emphasised that both policy makers in Government and policy stakeholders - including within the Universities themselves – need to look beyond the specific ʻresearchʼ derogations set out in Article 89 of the GDPR when seeking to balance rights and interests in this area. Whilst Article 89 does grant certain derogations which recognise the role that research plays in knowledge production of all kinds, these are quite limited in nature.  This reflects the fact that Article 89 can be claimed even by certain forms of purely economically-motivated, commercial research. In contrast, academic biomedical research furthers “important objectives of general public interest” as well as constituting the exercise of the freedom of sciences as set out in the EU Charter (Article 13).  It therefore can and should benefit from further derogations under the Restrictions clause of the GDPR (Article 23). Finally, through its concept of “academic … expression” as set out in Article 85 (2), the GDPR recognises that humanities and most forms of social research must benefit from wide-ranging derogations “as necessary to reconcile the right to protection of personal data with the freedom of expression and information”. These derogations should mirror the existing protections for journalistic, literary and artistic purposes which are similarly safeguarded in Article 85 (2).

Dr Fenton-Glynn consulted by the media in relation to the Charlie Gard case

last modified Jul 10, 2017 12:00 PM

Over the last week, LML Member Dr Claire Fenton-Glynn has been quoted in a variety of media sources and conducted a radio interview on the case of Charlie Gard. Gard is an eleven month old infant born with a genetic disorder which leaves him unable to breathe unaided and with severe brain damage. The London hospital treating him have asked permission to remove the child from life support, and now have the backing of both domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights; while his parents are seeking to take their son to the USA for an experimental treatment that may prolong his life. Dr Fenton-Glynn comments on the role of the courts as the final arbiter in medical disputes about the treatment of children, and parental responsibility in English law.

Newspaper articles:

Radio interviews:


Dr Liddicoat presents at Oxford Precision Medicine Conference

last modified Jul 11, 2017 03:03 PM

On June 13th, Dr Liddicoat presented at the conference Intellectual Property, Ethics and the Market in the Era of Personalised Medicine, held at St Anne’s College, Oxford. His talk was titled ‘The Phantom Menace of Gene Patents Arises?’, and the abstract can be found below. Dr Liddicoat and colleagues are now in the midst of translating the talk into a peer-reviewed article, the publication of which will be announced as soon as it becomes publicly available.



The patentability of DNA-related discoveries has been socially, legally and ethically controversial for many years. The debates have recently re-ignited following some high-profile events on both sides of the Atlantic. In Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, the US Supreme Court held that isolated gDNA is not patent eligible subject matter. In addition, the US Federal Circuit Court recently held invalid a patent for NIPT, directed to ‘a method for detecting inherited nucleic acid’, because it claimed a natural phenomenon. By contrast, a patent with claims to isolated forms of the FLT3 gene has been successfully enforced in Germany. Furthermore, the European version of the NIPT patent found invalid in the US is currently the subject of license fees and enforcement in the UK.

In the 2000s a number of studies examined whether patents were adversely affecting the provision of molecular genetic diagnostic tests in Europe. Broadly speaking, these studies found little enforcement activity and limited evidence that laboratories were paying licences or being prevented from supplying tests. As a result, the authors of one survey-based study concluded that the phantom menace of gene patents had not arisen — “yet”. In light of the events above, however, this situation may have changed. In early spring, we will deploy a survey that is designed to update and extend these studies. This presentation will present preliminary results.

Colm McGrath appointed to a Lectureship at King's College London

last modified Jun 12, 2017 02:17 PM

LML is happy to announce that Colm McGrath has been appointed to a Lectureship at the King's College London Dickson Poon School of Law. He will take up the position in January 2018.  At KCL, he looks forward to contributing to the School’s teaching in tort law and medical law and to continuing his research into the modern, historical and comparative development of the law of medical malpractice.  He also looks forward to retaining close links with LML and joining the centre's growing network of researchers and stakeholders beyond Cambridge.

Dr Scherpe delivers plenary lecture at the Academy of European Law on the legal status of transexual, transgender and intersex persons

last modified Jul 10, 2017 12:01 PM

On May 29th and 30th 2017, a seminar for university professors and law lecturers took place at the Academy of European Law in Trier, Germany. The general topic of the seminar was ‘Current Reflections on EU Anti-Discrimination Law’, and Dr Scherpe delivered a lecture on ‘The Legal Status of Transsexual and Transgender Persons’, based on his book of the same title. He also extended his lecture to cover ‘The Legal Status of Intersex Persons’ (book forthcoming in Autumn 2017), highlighting in particular the Malta Declaration of the Third International Intersex Forum and related statements by Organisation Intersex International. Dr Scherpe concluded that the current discrimination, stigmatisation and pathologisation of transsexual and transgender persons as well as intersex persons is unacceptable and that the existing European and international human rights frameworks require immediate action.

Kathy Liddell participates in CSaP Senior Policy Fellows Meeting on Genetic Technologies

last modified May 24, 2017 09:47 AM

Kathy Liddell, Director of the LML, was invited to participate in 
the fourteenth Policy Leaders Fellowship Roundtable organised by the 
Centre for Science and Policy which will take place at Trinity College 
Cambridge on 12 May 2017, chaired by Lord Wilson of Dinton, former UK 
Cabinet Secretary.

The subject for discussion on 12 May was “advances in genetic 
technologies”. Each of the Fellows was asked to summarise in two minutes the questions are of interest to him or her, following which the academics then spoke for five minutes each on the relevance of their research to those questions.

Some of the questions which arose with direct relevance to LML research included: (i) what are the possibilities and risks associated with gene-editing and gene-drive? (ii) in additions to systems to review safety, are  systems of ethical review robust enough? (iii) which organisations and legal frameworks (e.g. IP rights) are the primary source of capital and source funding for genomic technologies (political economy and business models)? (iv) who wins and loses with gene editing and genetic testing (social equity; distributive justice); (v) how might regulation steer a middle way that avoids polarisation and neither exaggerates the potential benefits nor is over-cautious about the risks? (vi) who/what is informing policy currently? (vii) who/what should be informing policy? (viii) how are risks and benefits managed globally? 

The Policy Leaders Fellowship brings together the most senior members of 
CSaP's network of policy professionals to form a select group which 
meets, together with leading researchers from the University and other 
institutions, to share insights into the development of open and 
evidence-based policy making. In line with the objectives of the Civil 
Service Reform Plan, it promotes the value of evidence, and progresses 
the move towards open policy making by opening up new ways of thinking 
and fresh perspectives; exercising “open minds” at the top of the policy 
making process; exploring new models for implementation; and creating 
engagement between policy, expertise and delivery.

Dr. Liddell appointed to Expert Board for “Study on the Economic Impact of SPCs”

last modified Apr 28, 2017 01:59 PM

Dr Kathy Liddell has been appointed to the Expert Board for Copenhagen Economics’ successful proposal to the European Commission (DG GROW) to prepare its “Study on the economic impact of SPCs, Pharmaceutical incentives and rewards in Europe”.

The overall objective of the project is to shed light on the effects of IP-related incentives (in particular Supplementary Protection Certificates) for innovation, availability and accessibility of pharmaceutical products in the European Union.

The team at Copenhagen Economics has extensive experience performing economic analyses and providing advice to the European Commission as well as to numerous clients in the pharmaceutical industry. 

The Expert Board will act as a close partner on the project providing professional assistance and expert insights. It consists of five well known international academics – Dr Kathy Liddell (Cambridge), Prof Timo Minssen (Copenhagen), Prof Brian Wright (Berkeley), Prof Jacques Pelkmans (CEP), Prof Jakob Kjellberg (KORA) -- each with their own respective area of expertise, covering legislation with a special focus on patents and intellectual property, econometrics and health economics. 

Prof. Knoppers and Dr. Yotova to speak on the topic of gene editing

last modified Apr 28, 2017 01:57 PM

On 25th May 2017, LML Visiting Scholar Prof. Bartha Knoppers and LML Member Dr. Rumiana Yotova will be speaking on the topic of gene editing. These presentations will be given as part of an event organised by the PHG Foundation:

'Gene editing: from innovative science to effective policy'.  

(See corresponding listing in LML Events. Tickets can be obtained here.)

The pace of scientific innovation in and around the life sciences has never been faster, and the implications of many of these innovations pose significant issues for policy-makers, especially for applications relating to human health. How can we balance an accurate understanding of complex science and medicine against relevant ethical, legal and social issues to develop robust and effective policy?

More information about the event, supported by speakers from the University of Cambridge Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, can be found here.

Dr. Powles publishes ‘Google DeepMind and Healthcare in an Age of Algorithms’.

last modified Mar 21, 2017 10:21 AM

Dr. Powles publishes ‘Google DeepMind and Healthcare in an Age of Algorithms’.

 A new study co-authored by LML member Dr. Julia Powles and The Economist’s Hal Hodson examines in detail Google DeepMind’s entry into the healthcare space. The paper, published in the journal Health and Technology, critically analyses the architecture, communication, and oversight of a foundational deal with the Royal Free London NHS Hospital Trust. It also spans broader, future-oriented questions of transparency, data value, and market power in data-driven healthcare. 

More information about the paper is available here. It has received wide press coverage, including in the BBC, Quartz, The Verge, Business Insider, Wired and numerous other outlets.

Dr Liddicoat and Dr Liddell publish Workshop Report on Open Innovation with Large Bioresources

last modified Feb 13, 2017 09:38 AM

On December 22 2016, a report on 'Open Innovation with Large Bioresources' was published by Dr Liddell and Dr Liddicoat.

This report is from a Cambridge Workshop on the openness of large bioresources in synthetic biology and genomics (e.g. the 100,000 Genomes Project), held on 28 January 2016. Research in SB and Gx depends on the use of collections of tissue and data, commonly known as bioresources. Substantial amounts of time and money are being spent on creating these bioresources and it is likely that significant scientific breakthroughs and development of end-products may be missed or delayed if the tissue and data in these resources are not shared. Accordingly, the ‘openness’ of these bioresources — in other words, the ability for other researchers to access, use, and share these resources (which is typically recorded in a bioresource’s IP and access policy) — is a key issue for the success of bioresource initiatives and the progress of SB and Gx.

There are, however, many different approaches to openness, and the development and dissemination of new knowledge are not necessarily advanced by distributing material at low cost or without any restrictions; time-limited rights of control (e.g. IP rights) may provide a useful incentive. It is a significant challenge to develop a fit-for-purpose openness policy that balances the advantages (and disadvantages) of different approaches to openness. The Workshop addressed this challenge by: reviewing openness policies adopted by large bioresources; eliciting ideas about access and intellectual property; debating the applicability of different openness policies; and identifying relevant areas for future research.

The report can be accessed here, and thanks and acknowledgments go to the Welcome ISSF and OpenPlant funds, and the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP).

Workshop on “Diseased Kidney Transplantation”: legal issues surrounding 'extended criteria' donors

last modified Dec 22, 2016 11:27 AM

In July 2007, the administrative guideline of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan introduced a new clause prohibiting doctors from transplanting a “diseased kidney” except as part of clinical research. Several patient groups and some legal scholars support this position, while other legal scholars assert that “diseased kidney transplantation” lacks medical indication or medical adequacy (lege artis) and does not constitute a “justification of injury (with consent)”.

Transplanting diseased kidneys could be said to be part of the recent development of “extended criteria (or marginal) donors”, and it is particularly controversial due to low survival rates of renal transplantation recipients and grafts from living donors with pre-existent renal diseases. The conflicts are fundamentally linked to the lack of legal regulations on living organ transplantation in Japan.

Against this backdrop, a workshop organised by Prof. Yuji Shiroshito (recent Visiting Scholar with the LML; Hokkaido University) was convened on 11 December 2016 to discuss the issues surrounding “diseased kidney transplantation”. These included the necessity and validity of legalising living donor organ transplantation and the legal position in foreign countries.

Guest speakers included Dr. Matthew Dyson (University of Oxford; research collaborator with LML), Prof. Chul Woo Yang, M.D. (Cathoric University of Korea), and Prof. Junichiro Okuda (Sophia University, Japan). Dr. Dyson asserted that transplantation which transmitted disease should be mainly regulated by negligence and product liability, and spoke about the possibility of the "first party insurance system" as an alternative to tortious liability; Prof. Yang questioned whether using diseased (but repaired) kidneys was really needed to relieve the chronic organ shortage in Japan; and Prof. Okuda pointed out some problems from bioethical viewpoints.

The presentations and subsequent discussion were very well-received, and the LML looks forward further collaboration on future projects.

Dr Erdos delivers WYNG-Hatton Lecture: “Data Protection in an Age of User-Generated Content”

last modified Dec 01, 2016 11:36 AM

David Erdos WYNG-Hatton Lecture


The majority personal information available online is now in some sense user-generated and most of this is subsequent to further processing by service providers pushing, structuring and aggregating the content. The new ecosystem raises unprecedented challenges for the data protection framework both as regards the safeguarding of users themselves and the allocation of responsibility between them and service providers for the protection of the rights of other individuals who may be identifiable in the published data. 

In the annual WYNG-Hatton Lecture, delivered on 9 November 2016 at the University of Hong Kong, Dr David Erdos explored these issues from both an historical and contemporary perspective concentrating especially on the case examples of health discussion forums, the publication of data from internet of things tracking devices and the responsibilities of search engines in the wake of the "right to be forgotten" ruling in Google Spain (2014).

A video recording of this lecture has kindly been made available by the University of Hong Kong here.

Slides are available here.



Sculpting evolution? A multidisciplinary workshop explores regulatory, legal and ethical perspectives of gene drive.

last modified Nov 28, 2016 10:31 AM

Gene drives are natural genetic systems that enable genes to spread rapidly within entire populations. By harnessing the power of these systems, society could significantly impact evolution.  Their use thus raises difficult social, legal, ethical and environmental questions.

While gene drive systems do exist in nature (and some have already been used to, for example, make mosquito populations unable to transmit dengue virus), these natural systems have limited uses.  The revolutionary potential comes from synthetic gene drive systems that use cutting edge techniques (e.g., the gene editing tool CRISPR/Cas9), which could in theory  be used to spread custom-made genes in many different organism.  This technology could be used in many scenarios including, medical, agricultural and conservational purposes.

Against this backdrop, the Synthetic Biology SRI, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences and the Centre for Science and Policy co-organised a workshop in Cambridge on 18 October to look at regulatory, legal and ethical perspectives of this technology. Attendees were drawn from a variety of organisations that may play a role in shaping UK and EU policy, including: academics in the natural and social sciences; government agencies like Defra, HSE and Dstl; learned societies such as the Royal Society and Royal Society of Biology; and, experts from the EU and other European national bodies.

Presentations & Discussions

Synthetic biologist Dr Kevin Esvelt (MIT Media Lab) started proceedings by introducing his work on gene drive systems. Amongst other innovations, Esvelt and colleagues have developed a gene drive system that could rapidly spread malaria resistance in mosquito populations.

Other speakers presented on regulatory, legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of gene drive technologies, leading to robust discussions on themes including: governance and how to engage with multiple publics; potential legislative and regulatory changes; and the responsibility of different actors from scientists to policy makers.

Discussion at the workshop revealed different opinions on many topics. One such topic was the question of whether legislation covering laboratory use of gene drive needs to be amended to provide extra protection against inadvertent release of gene drive organisms. One view was that extra protection was needed due to the relative ease of synthesising gene drives and the scope for major population level changes in the event of an accidental release. A contrasting view was that modifications to guidelines and norms of the scientific community will be as effective as new legislation.

Next steps

The diversity of perspectives and opinions at the workshop gave much food for thought and a report is being drafted for public release. The report will guide the organisers’ future research in this area and, hopefully, assist other organisations’ assessments of gene drive.


LML 'Down Under'

last modified Nov 28, 2016 09:52 AM

In November 2016, two members of the Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences will be undertaking research visits in Australia.

From 3 - 8 November, Dr Kathy Liddell will be working with the Law Faculty at the University of Melbourne as a Visiting Scholar. Dr Liddell will be taking part in strategic discussions for future collaborations between the Faculty of Law, Cambridge and the Law Faculty, Melbourne, in the area of law, technology, health law and innovation. This dialogue will be followed by discussions with Melbourne Law PhD students. On 7 November, Dr Liddell will be a key presenter at a roundtable seminar on 'Precision Medicine: IP, Regulatory and Ethical Challenges', speaking on the topics of 'Changing Landscapes in IP and Precision Medicine' and 'Precision Medicine: Legal and Ethical challenges'.

Meanwhile, from 7 - 13 November, Dr Liddicoat will be delivering a number of talks and presentations in Australia. On 7 November, Dr Liddicoat will be talking about challenges for early-career academics with postgraduate students and early-career researchers in social sciences at the University of Tasmania. This will be followed on 10 November by a presentation at a workshop on material transfer agreements (MTAs), and by a presentation at a workshop in gene editing on 13 November.  



Festival of Ideas: Is earlier necessarily better?

last modified Nov 03, 2016 01:14 AM

On 24th October a packed audience gathered at the McCrum lecture theatre in the heart of Cambridge to attend the Festival of Ideas event "Is earlier necessarily better?" To our knowledge this was the first ever cancer-themed event to feature in the Festival of Ideas, which generally focuses more on the arts and social sciences. The premise of the event was to explore the wider, societal issues surrounding cancer screening (legal, psychological, social, economic, philosophical). This is an under-researched area and the Early Detection Programme is currently planning to commence some work in this arena.

Organised by the Early Detection Programme, with whom the LML has collaborated this year, the Festival of Ideas event featured a panel of seven experts from across the academic disciplines including law, history and philosophy of science, radiology, cancer genetics and surgery. Expertly chaired by cancer geneticist Prof Sir Bruce Ponder, the panel and audience were inspired to discussion using clips from the BBC Horizon programme episode entitled Are health tests really a good idea? The audience posed some interesting and well-informed questions and comments, and the feedback, both on the theme and the format of the event, has been extremely positive.

Research Associate position

last modified Oct 06, 2016 11:44 AM

Applications are invited for the position of an Information Governance Research Associate in the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, to work on a research project entitled Human Rights, Big Data and Technology (HRBDT) funded by ESRC and principally based at the University of Essex. Under the guidance of Dr David Erdos, the role holder will actively engage with the work of the HRBDT project especially as it relates to data protection.

Applicants will have a PhD or equivalent in law or a related discipline, preferably related to information law.

Experience and expertise in data protection law and regulation as well as a background of research in this area would be of advantage. The role also involves some administrative responsibilities linked to the project, such as event and conference organisation.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 20 months.

To apply online for this vacancy, please click on the 'Apply' button below. This will route you to the University's Web Recruitment System, where you will need to register an account (if you have not already) and log in before completing the online application form.

If you have any questions about this vacancy or the application process, please contact Dr David Erdos by

Please quote reference JK10330 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.