Research Group of Applied Ethics in Translational Oncology

Ethics is currently in a dynamic phase of progressing towards clinical application: strategic processes are underway in all affected areas of research. Furthermore, at the community level clinical ethics structures and practical procedures are being improved under consideration of oncology experts' recommendations.

Dr. Utako Birgit Barnikol

Dr. Utako Birgit Barnikol

Medical Ethicist, Neurologist and Psychiatrist

Research Group ‘Applied Ethics in Translational Oncology’ at the CIO Cologne

Building 10, 1.OG, Room 1.111a

Publikationen (PubMed)

+49 221 478-88238
+49 221 478-87325
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Dr. Utako Barnikol is an ethicist and clinician. She studied philosophy and medicine at the Georg-August-University Gottingen and the Heinrich-Heine-University Dusseldorf. She received her medical license on 9 November 2004 in Dusseldorf. On 28 September 2005 she received her doctorate with the highest honors from the University of Cologne. Her dissertation ‘Visually evoked responses of cortical areas V1/V2 and V5/MT after chessboard pattern reverse stimulation: magnetoencephalographic studies in combination with cytoarchitectonical probability maps’ was awarded the highest marks with distinction and published as a book by the publishing house at the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres.

During her doctoral research, Dr. Barnikol was integrated into basic scientific experimental methods at the Max Planck Institute and at the same time worked for many years as a clinical scientist in self-regulatory science management at the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. She has worked abroad at the University of Oxford and in Tokio (Keio University).

Dr. Barnikol is the inventor of a US patent and the co-inventor of two EU patents for clinical applications. In 2008, as a continuation of her clinical-scientific translation work she was awarded a permanent position at the Medical Faculty of the University of Cologne. From 2009 to 2013, she was initially the deputy head of a research group and subsequently the head of two working groups on applied research.

After being awarded the title of neurologist and psychiatrist on 14 March 2003 by the State Chamber of Doctors in Dusseldorf, Dr. Barnikol was appointed as a senior research doctor.

Her work on the topic of treatment ethics, ‘Neuropsychiatric grace period – between symptoms and diagnosis’, performed together with the Medical Chamber of North RhineWestphalia and the Helmholtz Association, had already attracted attention.

She subsequently became head of the research group on clinical neuroethics in February 2014. In the same year the dean, Prof. Dr. h.c. mult. Thomas Krieg, MD, invited her to answer socio-political questions at the Cologne location as part of the collaboration with the research centre on ethics. This initiative, performed with the executive board of the Medical Chamber of North Rhine-Westphalia together with Ulrich Langenberg, the head of the Department on General Questions in Healthcare, Social and Occupational Policy and Prof. Dieter Birnbacher, at that time Chairman of the Central Ethics Committee (ZEKO) of the German Medical Association in Berlin, attracted further attention in the field of joint decision-making (Dtsch Ärztebl 2015 & Prädiktive Medizin Prädiktive Medizin- MedR 2016).

In November 2017, Dr. Barnikol became responsible for the Clearing Unit Ethics at the University of Cologne. The main focus of the Clearing Unit Ethics is on applied ethics in precision oncology (Research Group of Applied Ethics for Precision Oncology at the CIO Cologne, AEPO). AEPO and the Clearing Unit Ethics are affiliated with the Hospital 1 for Internal Medicine, led by Prof. Michael Hallek, MD, Director of the CIO Cologne Bonn and voting member of the CIO Steering Committee, the highest common decision-making panel within the two-location cancer centre CIO Cologne Bonn.

Research interests

  • Medical decision making and ethics of action; supported autonomy at the limits of life (together with Ulrich Langenberg, managing doctor, North Rhine Medical Chamber, Prof. Dieter Birnbacher, PhD, Dusseldorf)
  • Advance research planning (together with Prof Dr. iur. Susanne Beck, Hannover & Prof Heiner Fangerau, MD, Prof. Dr. h.c. Dieter Birnbacher, PhD, Dusseldorf)
  • Supported decision making (together with Prof. Dr. phil. Dr. h.c. Dieter Birnbacher, Ulrich Langenberg, Dusseldorf)
  • Levels of self-determination in oncological diseases (together with Prof. Dr. h.c. Dieter Birnbacher, PhD Düsseldorf)
  • Categorisations and diagnostic model design in methodology, DSM-5 (Prof. Prof. h.c. Dr. h.c. Hans-Jürgen Möller, MD, Munich)
  • Predictive medicine – legal ethics perspectives (together with Prof. Dr. iur. Susanne Beck, Hannover, Prof. Heiner Fangerau, MD, Ulrich Langenberg, Dr. iur. Dirk Schulenburg, and Prof. Dr. h.c. Dieter Birnbacher, PhD, Dusseldorf)

Academic committees and senate panels

  • since 12/2019 elected Member of the Hospital Commission of the State 
    Chamber of Physicians of North Rhine Member
  • since 12/2019 Member of the Ad hoc-Commissions of the State Chamber of Physicians of 
    North Rhine:

    • Drug Regulation and Drug Treatment Safety
    • Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics

  • since 11/2019 Deputy Delegate in the German Medical Assembly 2020
  • since 07/2019 elected Member of the Chamber Meeting at the Medical Association of North Rhine, Legislative Period 2019-2024
  • elected alternate member of the tenure-faculty council of the medical faculty
  • elected alternate member of the senate core panel (N4) at the university senate council for the legislature 2019/2021
  • 10/2018 member of the election board of the core faculty of the medical faculty, representative of the academical research election in the medical faculty council
  • Since 12/2015 alternate member of the education and examination board for the doctoral program in the health sciences

Selected publications (not in PubMed)

  • Barnikol UB, Beck S, Mpotsaris A, Birnbacher D.
    On Indicated Predictive Medicine - How much Information does the Patient need?
    Interdiszipl. Med. (2) 14 (2019).
  • Barnikol UB, Beck S, Mpotsaris A, Birnbacher D, Wiltfang.
    Zukunftsplattform Applied Ethics for Precision Oncology of Cologne (AEPO)
    Interdiszipl. Med. (8) 17 (2018).
  • Birnbacher D, Barnikol UB, Beck S, Fangerau H.
    Advance Care Planning. Willingness to pay or willingness to accept?
    Interdiszipl. Med. (7) 11 (2018).
  • Barnikol UB, Beck S, Mpotsaris A, Birnbacher D, Fangerau H, Wiltfang J.
    Predicative and Preventive Medicine: An Advanced Applied Approach to Professional Ethics in Psychiatry.
    AGNP. (10) 5 (2017).
  • Barnikol UB, Beck S, Birnbacher D, Fangerau H, Langenberg U, Schulenburg D, Steinert S.
    Prädiktive Medizin- eine rechtliche Perspektive.
    MedR 34 Nov092017 first online doi:10.1007/s00350-016-4399-6 October 2016, Volume 34, Issue 10, pp 753–757 (2016).
  • Tass PA, Barnikol UB, Hauptmann C, Haroud K, Roulet JC, Schnell U.
    Device and method for visual stimulation.
    Assignee: Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH (Juelich, DE) Universitaet zu Koeln
    (Cologne,DE) United States Patent 9.302.069 April 5 (2016) Family ID: 1000001752184 Appl. No.: 12/875,619 Assignees: Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH, ANM Adaptive Neuromodulation GmbH, Universitaet zu Koeln. Type: A (2016).
  • Barnikol UB, Beck S, Birnbacher D, Fangerau H.
    Advance Care Planning - eine dynamische Form der Patientenverfügung.
    Ärztezeitung 17. August 2015 online (2015).
  • Barnikol UB, Fangerau H, Beck S, Birnbacher D.
    Die Achtung vor der Menschenwürde in der
    Psychiatrie, NeuroMarginal in Neuroaktuell 11 (2015).
  • Maier W & Barnikol UB.
    Die Indikation für autonomieersetzende Interventionen bei psychisch kranken Menschen.
    In: Medizinische Indikationen. Ärztliche, ethische und rechtliche Perspektiven. Grundlagen und Praxis Andrea Dörries / Volker Lipp (Hrsg.) Kohlhammer Verlag Stuttgart, 1. Auflage S. 199-211 (2015).
  • Birnbacher D, Klitzsch W, Langenberg U, Barnikol UB.
    Dealing with dementia patients: Jointly responsible for decisions.
    DtschArztebl 2015; 112(12): A-514 / B-438 / C-426. (2015).
  • Vollmann J, Walter H, Barnikol UB, Finzen A, Gather J, Gerlinger G, Heberlein A, Heinz A, Helmchen H, Lieb K, Maier W, Müller JL, Müller S, Pollmächer T, Saß H, Schramme T, Seidel M.
    Achtung der Selbstbestimmung bei Anwendung von Zwang bei der Behandlung psychisch erkrankter Menschen. Eine ethische Stellungnahme der DGPPN/Task Force "Ethik in Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie" der DGPPN.
    Nervenarzt 85(11): 1419-1431 (2014).
  • Heinrichs J-H, Langenberg U, Klitzsch W, Barnikol UB.
    Neuropsychiatric Grace Period-Between Symptom and Diagnosis.
    Nervenheilkunde 4, 237 - 245 (2012).

The complex questions of clinical ethics, science, society and the economy need to be dealt with holistically, from the principles of ethics to their application. We are working on finding solutions, translating them into clinical practice and implementing them into care as system competences. Our work encompasses the following areas:

  • Innovative oncology in personalized medicine
  • Indicated and success-critical diagnostics
  • Integrated care, as reflected in clinical ethics
  • New concepts for providing information to oncology patients
  • Translation into clinical practice to achieve individualised and  precise treatment in oncology with the help of applied ethics
  • New generations of compact advisory systems in clinical care: advance care planning, advance research planning, shared decision making and supported decision making

A sharpening and clarification of the application of ethics, in particular at the level of applied clinical research, should further increase the scientific and strategic formative capacity of clinical ethics with regard to urgent economic issues. At the level of the CIO community, the Director of the CIO and the Steering Committee, as the higher advisory and voting committee, perform prominent functions in guiding practical ethics from a clinical-scientific perspective and in defining the future fields to be developed. There is agreement that the clinical research fields and boards established with practical ethics can serve as a communication and strategy platform.

In the applied research fields of practical ethics, a range of practice-related procedures are being developed that will emphasise the following new features: promotion of innovation; translation into clinical practice; and formation of crucially important partnerships (with science and industry, among others). In the future, a decided focus should be placed on establishing early strategic alliances between complementary business partners. To promote innovation, through targeted participation and increased transfer of knowledge in these newly created strategic alliances, we will also expand the exchange with clinical ethics – in a mutual dialogue between care and research – into two strategic fields:

  • Strategic clinical ethics and innovation (whereby innovative concepts 
    will be chosen wisely)
  • Strategic development partnerships and new formats in business 
    collaborations with complementary content

In particular, certain ethical questions in the field of precision oncology and economic issues in solidarity-based health care Systems should be at the centre of this newly formed field


Alicia Brenig
Mylène Grassinger
Teresa Koch
Marla Lynn Welsch

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