New appointments at the UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Council

Baroness Helene Hayman has been appointed as Chair of the UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Council. She will be joined by Dr Eric Meslin, who takes on the role of Vice Chair.

Baroness Helene Hayman, Chair of the UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Council

Baroness Helene Hayman, Chair of the UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Council

Baroness Helene Hayman has been appointed as Chair of the UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Council (EGC). She will be joined by Dr Eric Meslin, who takes on the role of Vice Chair.

Baroness Hayman has been a member of the House of Lords since 1996, and in 2006 became the first elected Lord Speaker. She has a wealth of experience in the health sector having served on medical ethics committees and governing bodies in the National Health Service as well as on health charities and regulators. She was first Chair of the Human Tissue Authority and is former Chair of Cancer Research UK. She is currently Chair of the board of Cambridge University Health Partners, a member of the General Medical Council and a trustee of Malaria Consortium.

UK Biobank is a long-term project to build a resource for research including samples and information from about 500,000 people living in the UK. The project aims to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illness and the promotion of health.

The Ethics and Governance Council, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, was established in 2004 as an independent body to advise UK Biobank on rigorous standards of ethical, legal and social consideration, as set out in the project's Ethics and Governance Framework.

The Council also reports publicly on the conformance of UK Biobank's activities with the Framework and with the interests of participants and the public.

Commenting on her appointment, Baroness Hayman said: "The EGC plays a key role in the governance of UK Biobank by acting as a 'critical friend'. Already the EGC has helped build a robust and ethically sensitive governance framework for the operation of UK Biobank but the work does not stop there. During the enhancements of the resource – including the current imaging pilot and the release of the genotyping data in 2016 – it is vital that governance continues to be geared to maintaining the trust and confidence of UK Biobank’s stakeholders, including its 500,000 participants. I am delighted to accept this appointment and welcome the opportunity to lead the EGC during this next phase."

Dr Eric Meslin is founding Director of the Indiana University Center for Bioethics, Associate Dean for Bioethics in the Indiana University School of Medicine, and is Professor of Medicine; of Medical & Molecular Genetics; of Public Health; of Bioethics and Law; and of Philosophy. From 1996–98 he was director of bioethics research in the ELSI program at the National Human Genome Research Institute, and from 1998–2001 he was Executive Director of the U.S. National Bioethics Advisory Commission. In 2015 he was elected a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Beginning 1 February 2016, Dr. Meslin will take on the new role of President and CEO of the Council of Canadian Academies.

Commenting on his appointment, Dr Meslin said: "I have long been an admirer of UK Biobank and its innovative approach to incorporating ethics into governance. It is my honour to accept this appointment and I look forward to working together with Baroness Hayman, EGC colleagues and UK Biobank to position UK Biobank as among the best of the world’s biobanks."