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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nobel Prize winner to chair new Institute of Science, Ethics and Innovation

Nobel Laureate John Sulston FRS is to join The University of Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences and will chair a new research institute focusing on the ethical questions raised by science and technology in the 21st century.

The 2002 Nobel Prize winner and pioneer of genomic research will be joined in the cross-discipline Institute of Science, Ethics and Innovation by Professor John Harris, a world-renowned authority on bioethics in Manchester's School of Law.

The new Institute's overriding aim will be to examine how the social and ethical consequences of science and technology can be managed in a way that protects people and makes their lives better. Among some of the ethical issues to be investigated are:

- Genetic selection of human embryos and the conflicts of interest between parents, the unborn child, social groups and society

- Genetic manipulation of humans and animals and the mixing of human and animal genes and cells to create hybrids

- The funding disparity in healthcare research between diseases of the developed and developing world

- The ethics surrounding different models of healthcare delivery, from a US system that rations by wealth to a UK-type model that aims to provide free access to care at the point of delivery

- Global trade, the free-market economy and 'fair trade' initiatives

- Climate change and the ethics of conflict between bioenegy and food supply in developing countries

"What is new and urgently required is serious work at the interface between science, ethics and innovation," said John Sulston.

"We need to examine the role of science and technology in society, both locally and globally, and consider the adequacy and justification for that role as well as the forms of regulation and control that are appropriate.

"Many of the topics that will fall under the remit of the Institute of Science, Ethics and Innovation offer great opportunities for us to produce high quality research in areas of major concern to society in the pursuit of progress towards a better future for humanity."

John Sulston has scholarly interests in common with Professor Joseph Stiglitz, also a Nobel Laureate, who was recruited by the University to chair the Brooks World Poverty Institute, a multidisciplinary centre of global excellence researching poverty, inequality and growth in the developed and developing world.

Professor John Harris, Research Director of the new Institute, said: "The transition process for new scientific and technological developments from discovery, through proof of principle to the clinic or marketplace, raises acute issues of social and global justice.

"These justice issues are also very much the concern of the Brooks World Poverty Institute and the intention is for these twin Manchester institutes, each chaired by a Nobel Laureate, to work closely together to create a centre of excellence in these complementary fields that is second to none in the world."

The University of Manchester aims to become one of the world's top 25 universities by 2015 and views iconic appointments, such as John Sulston's, as key to attracting the best scholars and students from around the globe.

Other recent key appointments have included Professor Robert Putnam, the global expert on social change, and author Martin Amis, who is the new Professor of Creative Writing at Manchester.

The University's President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Gilbert said: "I'm delighted that John Sulston has agreed to join the University.

"His appointment is the latest in a series of iconic appointments intended to reflect the University's commitment to become one of the top 25 research universities in the world, as set out in the University's ambitious strategic plan, the Manchester 2015 Agenda.

"We already have a reputation for research and policy engagement in the fields of development economics, development studies, sustainability, healthcare governance and ethics, sociology and politics, as well as a strong reputation in science.

"The role of this Institute will be to build on this through world-leading research on science, ethics and innovation."

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