February 23, 2024

Singapore row over research ethics

Singapore’s dreams of becoming a world-class research hub for biotechnology are being tarnished by a dispute over the sacking of a UK scientist who used to head its National Neuroscience Institute. In 2002 Dr Simon Shorvon was accused of conducting tests without the proper consent of the patients involved and over whether ethics committees had been kept fully informed.

However, the UK-based Medical Protection Society has rejected all charges of professional misconduct on his behalf and three leading UK medical experts said that he acted ethically at all times. One of them, Professor Peter Sever, of Imperial College London, called upon the Royal College of Physicians to warn its members of the dangers of working in Singapore.

Biotechnology is a pillar of Singapore’s vision for its future and Singaporean bureaucrats are keen to maintain its professional reputation. “It is important that we get this right, that outsiders see us as a place beyond reproach, where international best practices are followed,” says Manu Bhaskaran, head of economic research for the Centennial Group.