Associate Professor Ubaka Ogbogu named a Trudeau Foundation Fellow

Health law expert chosen for his expertise in ethical implications of biotechnology

Helen Metella - 14 August 2020

Associate Professor Ubaka Ogbogu, a health law scholar in both the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has been named a fellow of the prestigious Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation for 2020 to 2023.

An authority on the ethical, legal and societal implications of novel and emerging biotechnologies, Ogbogu is one of four scholars and the only one from the University of Alberta chosen to focus on the foundation’s new scientific theme for the next three-years — technology and ethics.

“I’ll be leading training on gene therapy and genetic technology and the ethical issues surrounding them,” said Ogbogu. “The focus includes technical issues pertaining to biotechnology and the incorporation of artificial intelligence in the area of health care, and that’s my area of expertise.”

In its announcement, the Foundation said, “With the ongoing, ever-changing circumstances stemming from the proliferation of COVID-19, this area of research will be more relevant than ever to our community, domestically and internationally.”

Since 2001, the Trudeau Foundation has trained foremost researchers, from Canada and abroad, to develop into influential leaders through its scholarship, fellowship and mentorship programs.

Ogbogu believes his selection speaks to the strength of the University of Alberta’s health law program. He is the second professor from the Faculty of Law to be chosen by the Foundation. The first, in 2015, was fellow health law scholar Timothy Caulfield, director of the university’s Health Law Institute, who Ogbogu credits as his mentor.

Ogbogu has researched ethics and biotechnologies since 2005, but as a multidisciplinary scholar his work cuts across numerous fields, including health law, bioethics, science policy, science and technology, public health, legal history and legal philosophy.

His publications have explored legal and ethical issues associated with stem cell research, gene and engineered gene therapies, biobanks, germline gene editing and assisted reproductive technologies. He is the Katz Research Fellow in Health Law and Science Policy at UAlberta and chair of the university’s Research Ethics Board No. 2.

He is also a member of the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Somatic Gene and Engineered Cell Therapies; a member of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Stem Cell Oversight Committee; and a member of the International Society for Stem Cell Research Task Force on Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation.

Previously, he served on the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Medical Assistance in Dying and as a member of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Governing Council’s Standing Committee on Ethics.

“It’s quite significant and I feel very humbled by it,” said Ogbogu of his appointment. “The fellows are a list of who’s who in Canadian academics, brilliant names. To be among them is very exciting. It really shows I’ve come a long way in one field.”