Skip to main content

Investigations into the law and ethics of biomedical technologies

In the course of the last three decades, scientific technologies have developed so tremendously that present-day advancements such as CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, three-dimensional organ bio printing, and the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our contemporary societies, amongst others, would not have been foreseen.

The rich tapestry of omnipresent digital media constantly feeding us information means that we are privy, almost on a daily basis, to the simultaneous miracles and devastations of science and technologies. From in-vitro gene-edited babies in China, to the creation of human-monkey chimeras, to fully autonomous ‘killer robots’ operating on algorithmic design in military operations, we have surely been spectators to some of the most valuable (and controversial) discoveries in this century.

As our community of global citizens move into the height of the digital age, however, continued burning and new concerns emerge; not only for legislators, policy makers and market stakeholders, but also for individuals. These concerns relating to scientific technologies are manifold, but the focus of the intended research meets at the intersection of biomedical laws, international human rights and constitutional law, and the use and consideration of various biomedical technologies.

A PhD student is sought for research and topics broadly spanning investigations and inquiries into law and biomedical technologies, and law, science and technologies. These may include: genome editing, therapeutic cloning, 3D organ bio-printing, cryogenics and cryopreservation, artificial intelligence, xenotransplantation, reproductive technologies such as PGD, and other specific applications of technologies in biomedicine and bioethics, widely defined from an international and comparative legal and regulatory perspective.

The student will have broad flexibility in the design of their research topic in consultation with the supervisor.

Depending on the student's choice of topic, there is significant potential for collaboration with external stakeholders and both supranational and international networks in the European Association of Health Law and the Future Health Law Institute (as examples).

The student will also be expected to integrate and build collaborative and inter-disciplinary or multi-disciplinary approaches with associated research groups within the University, such as the Brunel International Law Research Group, the Global Lives Research Group, and the Brunel Human Rights, Society and the Arts Research Group.

In some instances, through the available networks, students may be given the opportunity to receive specific PhD-level bursaries to present in poster presentations or other types of conference presentation in widely-attended international biomedical law conferences.

Prior qualifications in law is mandatory, preferably a 2:1 Hons Degree (UK or equivalent). Prior assessed knowledge or qualification in bioethics, biomedical laws, medical ethics, medical law and/or biomedical technologies is an advantage.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you would be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Pin Lean Lau - Pin Lean is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Bio-Law at Brunel Law School, joining Brunel University London in January 2021. A former practising barrister and solicitor, she was a corporate-commercial attorney working primarily in corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, technology law, and general corporate advisory matters. Prior to joining Brunel University, she was an attorney on secondment with the Legal Services Team (based in Belgrave, London) in the General Counsel's Organization of American Express International, where she was a key senior legal counsel for the Asia-Pacific region. She obtained her SJD in Comparative Constitutional Law from Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, in 2019 (nostrified in the UK in 2020), earning highest honours, Summa cum Laude, for her thesis titled 'Comparative Legal Frameworks for Pre-Implantation Genetic Interventions' (which has been written into a monograph published by Springer Switzerland).  Pin Lean is the General Manager of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence: Social & Digital Innovations. She is an active member of the Brunel International Law Research Group, Living Avatars Research Group, the Human Rights, Society and the Arts Research Group, and Reproduction Research Group. Externally, she is part of the ELSI2.0 Workspace, an international collaboratory on genomics and society research; a member of the European Association of Health Law (EAHL), and a General Manager of the Interest Group on Supranational Bio-Law of the EAHL; and a member of the Daughters of Themis: International Network of Women Business Scholars. She has held visiting fellowships with the Centre for Health, Law and Emerging Technologies (HeLEX), NDPH (Medical Sciences Division), University of Oxford; the Centre for Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences (CELLs) at the University of Hannover, Germany; and participated in the Centre for Ethics and Law in Biomedicine (CELAB) in Central European University, Hungary. Pin Lean also leads the UK & European chapter of the global Responsible Metaverse Alliance as Director of Research; and is an invited member of the United Nations (UN) International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Working Group on the Metaverse, focusing on competition, economics, standards and regulatory aspects of the Metaverse.  Her research encompasses European, international, and comparative law for genome editing (with a focus on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, reproductive technologies and women's bodies; and the proliferation of virulent gene-edited pathogens and global bio-security); propertization and commodification studies of genetic materials and biomedical technologies; the ethico-legal governance for artificial intelligence (AI) systems (with a focus on protection of fundamental rights, spatial 'body citizenship' and bio-constitutional implications of the AI-augmented biological human body, and AI in women's health); and technologies horizon scanning and legal future foresighting for new and emerging technologies and environments, such as the Metaverse. She has written widely on topics straddling the fringes of laws, technologies and society, and has been invited as a speaker by many national and international organisations, including on podcasts relating to technologies, and media interviews with news organisations in the UK, US, France, Germany, Brazil, Hungary, Malaysia, Japan, and India. Recently, she was invited as an expert panelist by the UK regulatory alliance, the Digital Cooperation Regulation Forum (DRCF) in its first Metaverse Symposium. She has also consulted as an expert with the UK Law Society on technologies and horizon scanning in its Future Worlds 2050 Project.  Pin Lean previously consulted on a multi-trust funded project for the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the OiE (World Organization for Animal Health), on developing and piloting of a Tripartite One Health Assessment Tool for Antimicrobial Resistance Relevant Legislation. She also completed a project with researchers from the EAHL to produce a Joint Statement for the European Commission's 2021 Thematic Networks, with a proposal for Health as a Fundamental Value, as part of the EU Pharmaceutical Strategy. She led a project on AI-driven technologies in women's healthcare, funded by the Institute for Communities & Society. Besides this, she is also working on several book projects, including health and IP rights in EU health law, and EU health databases; on the EU Draft Law for Artificial Intelligence and data protection; on AI gender data gap and data feminism; and on FemTech and effective AI stewardship for women's healthcare. She is also a contributor in the EuroGCT Project (European Gene & Cell Therapy Project) funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 Work Programme, contributing in the area of data misuse and mission creep in EU health laws relating to patient involvement and patient data. She was the keynote speaker, with the presentation titled 'Hidden Figures: Algorithmic Biases in Health and Medical AI - European Law Perspectives' at the XVI Inter-Autonomous Conference on the Legal Protection of Patients: Science and Data as Ingredients for the Transformation of Healthcare Organisations.  She led a European Commission Health Policy Platform project, together with civil society organisation, Health Action International, to produce a Joint Statement and policy recommendations for the European Commission 2022 Thematic Networks, on the impact of artificial intelligence on health outcomes (reducing health inequalities) of marginalised groups in the EU - presenting this report to the European Commission in Luxembourg in April 2023. She currently leads the Stakeholder Network for this project on the EU Health Policy Platform. From August 2023, Pin Lean leads a project (Lex-HMT) focusing on legal and regulatory aspects of immersive biomedical technologies in virtual worlds, and is expected to provide oral evidence to the AI All-Parliamentary Group (AI APPG) in the UK House of Lords in November 2023. She has also recently been successful as Co-Investigator in a UKRI-funded regulatory science & innovation network funding application with The Global Counsel and Digital Catapult, on spatial computing, web3.0 and the Metaverse.