The Director General of Higher Education, YBhg. Datin Paduka Ir. Dr. Siti Hamisah Tapsir, on 17 April 2019 witnessed the exchange of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Faculty of Medicine, UM and Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University in a historic international collaboration in health care, bioethics and research.
The Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University is a world-renowned academic center for bioethics, and is dedicated to identifying and addressing key ethical issues in science, clinical care, and public health. It was represented by its Director, Professor Dr. Jeffery P. Kahn, and Deputy Director, Professor Dr. Jeremy Sugarman.
UM was represented by Vice-Chancellor, Datuk Ir. (Dr.) Abdul Rahim Hj. Hashim, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dato’ Professor Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman, and Deputy Dean Research of the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Dr. Ng Chirk Jenn.
UM and the Johns Hopkins University have had long-standing collaborations in research ethics capacity strengthening and this MoU marks the consolidation of a true partnership. Among the action plans of the MoU are to engage with diverse stakeholders at UM nationally and regionally to increase capacity for high quality research ethics education, and to establish a robust Master of Health Research Ethics programme at UM for research ethics training. This programme is not only the first research ethics related Master’s programme in Malaysia but also one of the few in the region of Southeast Asia.
“The development of the Master of Health Research Ethics programme draws on the expertise of bioethicists and educationist from Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University and a multidisciplinary group of faculty members from UM in the field of medicine, law and education. Students who participate in this programme will have a chance to learn a wide range of ethical challenges in biomedical and social science research and how to address them through theory and practice”, said Vice-Chancellor Datuk Ir. (Dr.) Abdul Rahim Hj. Hashim.
“This conference provides a holistic view to the topic of gene editing, looking from religious, philosophical and legal perspectives. The Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia have set ambitious targets for universities to be highly competitive in research but strive to promote a culture of responsible conduct in research, ethics and integrity”, said Director General of Higher Education, YBhg. Datin Paduka Ir. Dr. Siti Hamisah Tapsir.
Various speakers from all over the world were invited to speak at the public conference. The representatives from Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University, Prof. Dr. Jeremy Sugarman, spoke about gene-editing in a talk entitled ‘Public Deliberations, Controversies and The Advent of Rogue Science’, whereas Prof. Dr. Jeffrey P. Kahn discussed the moral arguments with regards to gene-editing. Prof. Dr. Maude Phipps from Monash University Malaysia spoke on the realities and myths of human gene editing. From the legal perspective, Dr. Sharon Kaur and Dr. Mohammad Firdaus Abdul Aziz enlightened the public about international, as well as national laws and regulations related to gene editing. Dr. Dan O’ Connor who is the Head of Medical Humanities, Wellcome Trust, UK, provided an interesting account on the history of gene editing and the lessons we can learn from it.
To incorporate religion into the narrative, a panel of four distinguished speakers discussed religious perspectives on gene-editing; Prof. Dr. Mohammed Ghaly from Hamad Bin Khalifa University spoke about the Islamic perspective, Prof. Dr. Daniel Tsai from National Taiwan University College of Medicine shared from the perspective of Confucianism and Buddhism, Dr. M. Bala Tharmalingam from National Council of Bioethics spoke on the perspective of Hinduism, and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Alex Tang Tuck Hon from Monash University Malaysia spoke from a Christian’s point of view. This was then followed by a general forum consisting of all the attended speakers, whereby the public had the opportunity to ask questions and share their own perspectives with regards to gene-editing and the ethical issues that surround it.