rows of wooden blocks

Image: DNA / Protein function finder by Duncan Hull, CC BY 2.0

Ethical aspects of genetics, genomics and emerging biotechnologies
My primary research interest focuses on the ethical aspects of genetics, genomics and other emerging biotechnologies (including reproductive technologies). This includes ethical aspects of prenatal diagnosis, the clinical implementation of genomics, ethics and population genetic screening; the impact of genetic information on health behaviours; debates on overdiagnosis and the use of genomic testing in children. I have a secondary research interest in the provision of clinical ethics support in healthcare; specifically the role of patients in this area.
I am a theoretical bioethicist - focussing on normative argumentation and conceptual analysis – however I also work with qualitative and quantitative methodologies with respect to the above issues.

My collaborators
Dr Zuzana Deans, Dr Anthony Wrigley, Prof Stephen Wilkinson, Prof David Thomas, Kate Dunlop, A/Prof Anne Cust, Prof Phyllis Butow, Professor Sylvia Metcalfe, A/Prof Kris Barlow-Stewart, Dr Stuart Nicholls

Ainsley Newson in workshop group foto

Image: Ainsley at the Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing workshop, Dec 2015, Switzerland. Image courtesy PIRC

Current projects

  • The Genioz project: Investigating Australians’ knowledge and attitudes towards personal genomics.
  • Creating sustainable healthcare: ensuring new diagnostics avoid harms, improve outcomes, and direct resources wisely: A NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) focusing on the problem of overdiagnosis; the CRE will support a range of projects about imaging tests (e.g. mammography, ultrasound), biomarker testing (e.g. blood tests), and genetic testing. - Led by Prof Alex Barratt.
  • Current technology, future autonomy: Ethics and Next Generation Sequencing in Children: Exploring ethical implications arising from the use of genomic testing in children, in a clinical context.
  • Genetic information and health behaviour change: Investigating numerous aspects of the impact of genomic information on health behaviour, in a cancer context. - Led by A/Prof Anne Cust.
  • Ethics and organ transplantation in Australia: Exploring numerous ethical and policy aspects surrounding the shortage of organs for transplantation in Australia.
  • Cancer genomics: A collaboration with the Garvan Institute (Kinghorn Centre)
  • Australian Genomics Health Alliance: working towards an interdisciplinary, nationally coordinated approach to genomics in Australian health care.

In addition, I am involved in a number of policy and ethics committees relating to bioethics and genomics at local, state, national and international levels.


Image: DNA, CC0 Public Domain


  • On 18 November 2016, I appeared on ABC Radio’s ‘Beyond the Lab’ podcast to discuss ethics and mitochondrial donation.

  • On 22 November 2016, I appeared on ABC TV’s ‘Lateline’ program to discuss ethics and non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT)

  • In August 2016, I won the inaugural Sydney Medical School Accelerator Award 2016. The Accelerator scheme provides funding of $50k to contribute to the research costs of projects currently in progress.

  • In July/August 2016, I guest-edited a special issue of Australasian Science, a popular science magazine. The issue is dedicated to ethical and social issues in genomics.

  • In January 2016, Anthony Wrigley and I published a feature article in the Australian Quarterly on genome editing (pp. 3-4).

Recent publications

Newson, A. J., S. J. Leonard, A. Hall and C. L. Gaff (2016). Known unknowns: building an ethics of uncertainty into genomic medicine. BMC Medical Genomics 9(1): 1-8. Published online 1 Sept 2016.

Ainsley Newson & David Amor, Genomic Testing as a Lifetime Health Resource? Australasian Science July/Aug 2016

Doran E, Kerridge I, Jordens C, Newson AJ. Clinical Ethics Support in Contemporary Health Care. In: The Oxford Handbook of Health Care Management. Ferlie E., Montgomery K., Reff Pedersen A. (Eds.). Oxford University Press, 7 Apr. 2016 Apr 7:164-187.

Newson A. J., Schonstein L., Genomic Testing in The Paediatric Population: Ethical Considerations in Light of Recent Policy Statements, Molecular Diagnosis & Therapy. Published online: 01 June 2016

Nicholls, S. G., Newson, A. J., & Ashcroft, R. E. (2016). The need for ethics as well as evidence in evidence-based medicine. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. Published Online: 31 May 2016.

Newson, A.J., Wilkinson, S., & Wrigley, A. (2016). Ethical and legal issues in mitochondrial transfer. EMBO Molecular Medicine, e201606281. DOI 10.15252/emmm.201606281 | Published online 21.04.2016

Newson A.J., Wilkinson S. Should Australia Allow Mitochondrial Donation, Australasian Science, March 2016, pp 17-19.

Newson, A.J., Wrigley, A. (2016) Being Human: The Ethics, Law, and Scientific Progress of Genome Editing Australian Quarterly, 87(1): 3-8.

Skerman, J.K., Newson, A.J. (2016) Regulating risk and the boundaries of state conduct: a relational perspective on home birth in Australia. American Journal of Bioethics, 16(2): 19-21.

Newson, A.J. (2016) Compensated transnational surrogacy in Australia: time for a comprehensive review MJA, 204(1): 33-35.


Most of my publications are available open access via the Sydney eScholarship Repository.

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