Prof. Ubaka Ogbogu recognized with Kitty Newman Memorial Award

Health law scholar on forefront of biotechnologies research

Sarah Kent - 12 September 2023

As biotechnologies reshape the medical landscape, Professor Ubaka Ogbogu of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law has been on the forefront of the legal, ethical and societal implications of health-tech.

For his groundbreaking research, he has been presented with the Kitty Newman Memorial Award by the Royal Society of Canada. The award recognizes outstanding contributions from an emerging scholar in the field of philosophy, including philosophy of culture, religion, law, ethics, and logic. 

“I think the award highlights the significance of the field of health law and how much it brings to national and global conversations regarding how to address novel and emerging health issues and technologies,” says Ogbogu. “Health law is one of our faculty's areas of focus, and it is great to see this recognized at the national stage.”

Earlier this month, Ogbogu was also named to the Royal Society of Canada as a member of College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists in recognition of his significant contributions early in his academic careers.

“Throughout my career, I have explored fundamental moral, legal and social questions surrounding advanced biomedical research and technologies,” he says. “My work focuses on understanding how these technologies would impact society, and how legal and ethical principles can be used to address these impacts.”

As a multidisciplinary scholar, Ogbogu’s teaching and research explores and cuts across various fields, including health law, bioethics, science policy, science and technology studies, public health, legal history and legal philosophy. 

His work recognizes the crucial role that legal considerations play in the ethical and practical dimensions in the advancements of health technology. 

Ogbogu’s expertise in health law is part of the Faculty’s established strength in the area.

"Ubaka is a remarkably fearless and impactful scholar,” says Professor Timothy Caulfield, research director of the Health Law Institute. “He has influenced policy and public discourse — on emerging biotechnologies, research ethics, vaccines, diversity issues, and health policy, to name just a few of the topics he tackles — at both a national and international level. Ubaka is also a passionate communicator. I feel fortunate to have him as a colleague. He so deserves this honour."

Ogbogu’s research has not only informed legal scholars but has resonated with those on the frontlines, including medical professionals, policymakers and the wider public as he navigates the complex web of rights, responsibilities and safeguards in an era of rapid scientific progress.

“I think there are two important directions that health law can go,” says Ogbogu. “The first is increased reflection on access and affordability challenges surrounding advanced biotechnologies, and the second is coming up with policies to deal with misinformation and disinformation as it relates to the integration of biotechnologies into health care. Both reflect some of the most pressing challenges to health care today.”

In April, he received significant grant funding as the bioethics and law lead for a project that aims to develop novel therapies for incurable neurological diseases.

In addition to his scholarship, Ogbogu has led or participated in national and international biotechnology policymaking activities. 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.

Ogbogu serves as the associate dean research for the Faculty of Law. He is also the Katz Group Chair in Health Law and Chair of the U of A Research Ethics Board No. 2.