Hung-En Liu, National Taipei University, Taiwan


Taiwan's government has recently decided to sponsor a biobank project conducted by the
Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Academia Sinica. This project is expected to develop a
national-level biomedical database that will store blood samples, genetic information
derived from them, and personal lifestyle information, with linkage to health data and
medical records, collected from 200,000 people in Taiwan. Many ethical and legal
controversies have been aroused by this project, and some of them are unique because of
the social/cultural contexts and past biomedical research practices in Taiwan. For example,
self-regulation of medical professionals and researchers are still underdeveloped, and
concepts like privacy, confidentiality, and conflict of interest are not taken as seriously as
they are in many Western societies. Moreover, most IRBs in Taiwan are unsound, and the
process of informed consent in many biomedical studies is problematic. To put the author's
discussion in Taiwanese contexts, and because the Academia Sinica still plans to follow
some of its past research practices to establish the Taiwan Biobank, this article first
identifies and examines the common problematic research practices that involve collection
and utilization of human tissue samples in Taiwan. Next, by demonstrating some points
from the research proposal and public statements of the Academia Sinica, this article argues
that its researchers are still not fully aware of the problems of past research practices, and
they seem to disregard the importance of legal and institutional frameworks for the biobank
project. Furthermore, this article argues that before public consultation and debate are held
and a sound governance framework is designed, the Taiwan Biobank project should not
start its promotion to the public, not to mention collecting blood samples. Finally, this
article make some suggestions, such as establishing an independent and multidisciplinary
committee, for the future governance framework of the Taiwan Biobank project.