On 25 January 2007, the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (“EGE”) provided the Commission with its Opinion on the ethical aspects of nanomedicine. The publication of the Opinion coincided with publicity surrounding the publication of the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) for nanomedicine.
The EGE acknowledged that nanomedicine offers the possibility of new diagnostic, treatment and preventive methods that may open up promising areas of medicine. Nanotechnology is a major research sector covered by the EU Research and Development Programme and around €100 million per year is expected to be allocated to nanomedicine projects during 2007-2013.
The Opinion stresses the vital importance of addressing safety concerns with respect to nanomedical developments. The EGE advocates for the establishment of measures to verify the safety of nanomedical products and to ensure that nanomedical devices are rigorously assessed. The Opinion also discusses the potential difficulties of obtaining informed consent for clinical trials of such new technologies and argues that transparency is essential for public trust in nanotechnology.
The EGE did not find that there is currently any need for any new regulatory structures to deal with nanomedicine specifically and argues that any changes should be made within existing structures. The EGE also called for comparative research on intellectual property rights and nanomedicine as the EGE believes that there is a potential risk of overly broad patents being granted in this area. The EGE called for further review into the balance between knowledge protection and information dissemination in this area.
The EGE underlined the need for a prospective technology assessment that includes consideration of the ethical, social and legal effects of nanomedicine and called for the establishment of a European Network on Nanotechnology Ethics to allow for enhanced information exchange between the appropriate bodes in different Member States.
The full ethics Opinion together with the SRA can be accessed at: http://cordis.europa.eu/ nanotechnology/home.html