Guidelines are now in place to drive the ethical governance of biomedical research collaborations between Europe and China (http://www.bionet-china.org). Along with 30 intensively discussed recommendations, the key proposal by BIONET is to establish a standing Sino–European platform for research ethics.
BIONET's report is the culmination of a three-year project between 21 partners, funded by the European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme and the UK Medical Research Council, with support from the Chinese government. It covers research on clinical trials, biological banking and personal genomics, stem-cell research, and reproductive and regenerative medicine.
Important scientific collaborations have so far included multicentre clinical trials for European pharmaceutical companies by local contractors in China, where the economic, social and political conditions are more favourable, and the worldwide contribution of Chinese genome-sequencing centres.
Many interdisciplinary ethics-review boards have already been set up in China, and in 2000, the Ministry of Health established a National Ethics Committee. However, regulatory gaps remain: for example, socio-cultural differences in Europe and China have prompted concerns about how best to adapt the idea of informed consent within an ethical framework.