Cutting-Edge Issues in the Structure & Governance of U.S. and International Biobanks

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 12:30pm to 2:00pm

Mississippi Room, Coffman Memorial Union

Prof. Capron discussed how biobanks — repositories of human biological samples and associated information about the lives and health of the samples' sources — have been established to assist in studies of particular diseases and, more broadly, of the effects of genes and the environment on human health and disease. Many involve collaboration across boundaries, including the gathering of samples in developing countries (sometimes from culturally isolated populations) by researchers from developed countries. He suggests that biobanks, therefore, raise many difficult normative issues:

  • From whom must permission be obtained to collect, store, and use samples?
  • Who should control the biobanks and the samples they hold?
  • On what terms should samples be made available for research?
  • How should the benefits of research be shared?

Although numerous ethical codes and guidelines have been promulgated, significant questions remain about their effectiveness. Prof. Capron also analyzed the methodology and results of an international study of expert opinion on such issues and offered his reflections on how we might think about these controversies. 


Brian Van Ness, PhD
Department Head and Professor, Department of Genetics, Cell Biology & Development 
University of Minnesota

Gloria Petersen, PhD
Professor of Epidemiology, Purvis and Roberta Tabor Professorship 
Mayo Clinic College of Medicine

Continuing Legal Education credit (CLE) was approved (1.5 hours). 

Alexander Capron, LLB, is Professor and Scott H. Bice Chair in Healthcare Law, Policy and Ethics; President of the Faculty; Professor of Law and Medicine, Keck School of Medicine; and Co-Director, Pacific Center for Health Policy and Ethics; all at the University of Southern California. A globally-recognized expert in health policy and medical ethics, he teaches Torts and Law, Science, and Medicine. Prof. Capron returned to USC Law in fall 2006 after four years on leave as director of Ethics, Trade, Human Rights and Health Law at the World Health Organization in Geneva. Professor Capron received a BA from Swarthmore College and an LLB from Yale University, where he was an Editor of the Yale Law Journal. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, where he served for five years; is a trustee of The Century Foundation; President of the International Association of Bioethics; and a member of the Institute of Medicine.

February 18, 2010