Bionetworking in Asia: Biomaterials and Cell Bank Regimes

In the international exchange of biomaterials, important issues have arisen related to the provenance and the transport of biomaterials, intellectual property rights and ownership, and the quality of specimen and user needs. These concerns are especially pertinent in cases where international joint ventures gain permission to set up biobanks in third countries. International science cooperation takes place for many reasons, including for advantages gained from knowledge transfer, financial accruement, research facilities and infrastructures, and research regulation. Before agreeing to cooperation, uncertainties usually exist regarding the status of ‘local’ rules regarding safety, bioethics, hygiene and their dynamics in practice, the understanding of these rules, and their implementation. As such, there exists regulatory uncertainty, especially regarding the flexibility of the interpretation and implementations of research and bioethical regulation and national and international guidelines, such as those of the ISSCR Guidelines for the Conduct of Human Embryonic Stem cell Research and Guidelines for the Clinical Translation of Stem Cells.

The Bionetworking in AsiaERC project (February 2012-January 2017) is concerned with the flow of stem cell tissues and cell bank regimes. This 5-year project will shed light on the increasingly important role of bionetworking in the acquisition of stem cell tissues and in the exchange and clinical application of biomaterials.

Bionetworking in the field of biobanking tries to understand how scientists/managers organise, recruit and maintain new possibilities for the collection, storage and the use of biomaterials. In most cases, best practice- and bioethical guidelines are actually in place, but problems arise relating to their implementation, and in biobanking practices found in everyday work. By understanding local conceptions of best practice, research expectations and research goals, as well as the regulatory environment and local facilities of biobankers, this project explores how regulatory guidelines for biomaterial exchanges can be understood in context and improved.


1. How are biomaterials obtained from donors (volunteers, patients, cadavers) and what are the ways and circumstances in which they are applied as source of knowledge or therapy?

2. How are biomaterial exchanges embedded in bionetworking under multiple conditions through conventions, trade and collaborations; under what conditions do the acquisition and transfer of biomaterials to other countries, biobanks, and hospitals take place?

Research AIMS:

  • To trace bottlenecks and analyse research traditions and systems underlying research practices diverging from formal policies
  • Delineating and analyzing ‘ownership’ rights, benefits and burdens associated with the donation, possession, maintenance, and application of biomaterials in the UK and Asia.
  •  Examine the socio-cultural and economic values associated with stem cell tissue exchanges before and after the disentanglement of these biomaterials from their ‘natural’ environment in the human body.

Wider aims of the project 

  • Events are coming soon, stay tuned!