Frontier Program of Medical Gene Research in Taiwan

- Yu Shi Hung, Ph.D.
Department of Health Care Management
Chang Gung University
259 Wen-Hwa 1st Road, Kwei-San, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 9 (1999), 9.

On Sept.1996, the National Science Council of Taiwan decided to integrate and accelerate genetic research in National Science and Technology Conference. Taiwan has started a Frontier Program of Medical Gene Research (FPMGR) since Jun. 1998. FPMGR is a three-year project, and has funded sixty-six research projects of eight groups as follows in Table 1.

Table 1: Sixty-six Projects Funded by FPMGR
1. Genomics 10
2. Genetic epidemiology 3
3. Gene therapy 14
4. DNA vaccination 11
5. Genetic technology 2
6. Genetic toxicology 6
7. Experimental animal 3
8. ELSI 17

From first to third Group, sixteen projects are concerned with tumors in Taiwan, especially hepatoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). It is reasonable for FPMGR to support most in hepatoma and NPC, since they are more prevalent in Taiwan than abroad. Eight projects of DNA vaccination group are related to the development of vaccines for hepatitis B, dengue fever, and Japanese encephalitis, three important infectious viral diseases in Taiwan. Four projects of genetic toxicology group concentrated on the arsenic-induced alterations of gene expression. Okabian (black foot disease) has been well studied in Taiwan so far, and its association with arsenic high-dose intake is well approved. The non-ELSI projects indicate not only that FPMGR has targeted its study on impending health diseases, but also that genetic study in Taiwan can explore the niche of genetic research around world.

The numbers of biomedical publications of Taiwan were listed in Table 2. Although Taiwan has undoubtedly increased its visibility in the biomedical research internationally in 1990's, number of ELSI-related papers has not exceeded 10 from 1990 to 1997. ELSI group accounts for 25% of all AGMPP projects. It seems plausible that ELSI is a high-priority study group funded by FPMGR, and the project names are in Table 3.

As ELSI study in Taiwan is still in its infancy, FPMGR adopted the principle of variety instead of concentration. Among ELSI studies, there are two projects concerned with assisted reproductive technology (ART). One is about the effects of ART on civil law. Another is our study of ART in Taiwan concerning law discipline, law-making process and policy making in comparison with that of Japan, USA, and UK.

Historically, modern medicine in Taiwan has been remarkably influenced by Japan and USA . We compared Taiwan model of lawmaking with that of Japan and USA because law content of Taiwan in general has also been regarded deeply influenced by two countries. UK is chosen because ART is under surveillance of government.

To the best of our knowledge, there are no research coping with the comparison of lawmaking of advanced genetic technology among these four countries. The major objective of our study is to make recommendations for lawmaker and policy maker. Our study would serve also as a stepladder for the coming law-making in Taiwan in the wake of Human Genome Project.

Table 2: Biomedical Publications of Taiwan in MEDLINE (1990-1997)
Year Domestic journals Overseas journals Total
1990 483 573 1056
1991 521 718 1239
1992 611 1035 1646
1993 608 1088 1696
1994 684 1554 2238
1995 621 1617 2238
1996 598 1940 2538
1997 452 1820 2272

Table 3: 17 ELSI Projects Funded by FPMGR

1. An Investigation into Legal Regulation System and Social Impact of Genetic Technology: A Normative and Sociological Perspective
2. A Comparative Study of the Interaction Between Biomedical Law and Policy making in Taiwan, Japan, USA, and the UK
3. The Impact of the Human Gene-Technology on the Civil Law
4. Medical Genetics and Its Impact State, Groups and Individuals
5. The social Impact of Recombinant DNA Technology
6. A Study on Issues Related to Medical Genetics and Health Insurance
7. Feminist Approaches to Prenatal Screening and Diagnosis
8. The Ethical Implication of Human Gene Therapy: a Perspective of Life-and-Death Studies
9. Shaping Professional Identities of Genetic Technology in Taiwan: a Research and Teaching Proposal with Global and Local Perspectives
10. The Development of Genetic Technology and the Utilization of Medical Resources: Cost, Efficiency, and Equity
11. The Development of Gene Technology and the Protection of Fundamental Rights: a Study on the Legal Regime
12. The Evaluation of the Patent Protection of the Gene-Related Inventions from the US and EU Experiences
13. Law Analysis of Human Genomics from Public Law Viewpoint
14. Genetic Testing for Susceptibility to Beast-Ovarian Cancer: a Study on Social Psychological and Ethical Factors
15. Social Policy and Democratic Governance in the Use of Genetic Knowledge
16. Biotechnology and Biodemocracy Cloning and it s Socio-Psychological Impacts on the Public
17. Ethical Analysis of Human Genomics from Confucianism Viewpoint

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