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Major biomedical ethics funding for King's

JUNE 24, 2008

King’s has been awarded two of three substantial grants from the Wellcome Trust to support the best research in biomedical ethics.  Each grant is in the region of £800,000 and will be used to strengthen collaboration and support new research fellowships and studentships over a period of five years.

The Wellcome Trust funds research into ethical issues that arise in the development and delivery of healthcare in the UK and developing countries. It also helps to ensure that the findings of biomedical ethics research are passed on to policy makers and healthcare practitioners to help inform their decisions.

The awards

Professor Theresa Marteau is Professor of Health Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, and the Principal Investigator for the Centre for the Study of Incentives in Health.

Working with Professor Richard Ashcroft from Queen Mary, University of London and Dr Adam Oliver from the London School of Economics, Professor Marteau will develop a programme of research looking at the use of financial incentives in UK healthcare, by asking when is it right to use financial incentives to improve health. The team will look at this question in the context of obesity, health in pregnancy, medication for psychotic disorders, and substance misuse. The award will establish a London-based Centre, which will be based across the above three colleges of the University of London.

One of the reviewers said of the proposal: ‘The proposal is both timely and important, given the increasing willingness of governments in the UK and across the world to experiment with financial incentives in public health. The proposal is outstanding in bringing together world-class researchers in three key disciplines (psychology, philosophy and economics) required to progress research in this area, with an impressive network of support from internationally respected scholars and key UK policy makers.’

Professor Clare Williams is Director of the Centre for Biomedicine and Society at King’s College London, and Principal Investigator of the London & Brighton Translational Ethics Centre which is the second of two centres at King’s to be awarded funding by the Wellcome Trust.

Together with colleagues at King’s, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Queen Mary University of London and Goldsmith's College, Professor Williams will explore the shifting moral landscapes as research progresses in areas such as human embryonic stem cell research and neuroscience. The team will ask what are the acceptable boundaries of science and medicine? Will scientific advances change what it means to be human?

Professor Williams comments on the awards: ‘I am absolutely delighted with this award which demonstrates the international reputation of the Centre for Biomedicine & Society (CBAS) at King's   The programme of work develops research capacity and expertise in interdisciplinary biomedical ethics, bringing together a team of social scientists, ethicists, biomedical scientists and clinicians to research the ethics of translational research - a topic that is of great scientific, clinical, ethical importance.’

The third centre was awarded to Oxford University under the Directorship of Professor Julian Savulescu, Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, together with colleagues in the UK and US, is looking at new problems for ethics and clinical practice in areas such as addiction, criminal responsibility, treatment of vegetative patients, medical decision-making, and enhancing normal human capacity.

Clare Matterson, the Wellcome Trust’s Director of Medicine, Society and History, said: ‘The nature of biomedical research means it is constantly challenging our ideas about the world, ourselves and our health. Research into ethical issues surrounding medical science and healthcare is essential if our society is going to be able to make informed decisions about research and medicine.

‘These significant and strategic grants will allow the successful groups to build on their impressive track records in biomedical ethics research. By providing this level of funding, we expect them to develop future generations of researchers, extend their existing UK and international collaborations, as well as develop new ways of multidisciplinary working.’
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