Debra Mathews, PhD, MA

Assistant Director for Science Programs; Core Faculty; Associate Professor


1809 Ashland Avenue
Room 211
Baltimore, MD 21205
  • Assistant Director for Science Programs
    Berman Institute of Bioethics
  • Associate Professor
    Dept. of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Debra JH Mathews, PhD, MA, is the Assistant Director for Science Programs for the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. As the Assistant Director for Science Programs, Dr. Mathews is responsible for overseeing the Stem Cell Policy and Ethics program and the Program in Ethics and Brain Sciences, as well as other bench research-related endeavors in the Berman Institute. She is also a member of the steering committee of The Hinxton Group, an international collective of scientists, ethicists, policymakers and others, interested in ethical and well-regulated science, and whose work focuses primarily on stem cell research. Dr. Mathews has been an active member of the International Neuroethics Society since 2006 and has served on the Society’s Board of Directors since 2015.

Dr. Mathews’s academic work focuses on ethics and policy issues raised by emerging biotechnologies, with particular focus on genetics, stem cell science, neuroscience and synthetic biology. In CRISPR: A path through the thicket, a paper in Nature, Dr. Mathews and colleagues discuss the ethical questions of genome editing and present recommended actions for continued research.

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Dr. Mathews earned her BS in Biology from the Pennsylvania State University and a PhD in genetics from Case Western Reserve University. Concurrent with her PhD, she earned a master’s degree in bioethics from Case. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in genetics at Johns Hopkins, where she continued her work on human genetic variation and human population history. She also completed the Greenwall Fellowship in Bioethics and Health Policy, which was jointly administered by Johns Hopkins and Georgetown universities. Dr. Mathews has also spent time at the Genetics and Public Policy Center, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, working in various capacities on science policy.


Research Interests

  • Ethics and policy issues raised by emerging biotechnologies, with particular focus on genetics, stem cell science, neuroscience and synthetic biology


  • BS, Biology, Pennsylvania State University
  • PhD, Genetics, Case Western Reserve University
  • MA, Bioethics, Case Western Reserve University

Recent Publications

  1. Fiallos K, Applegate C, Mathews DM, et al. Choices for return of primary and secondary genomic research results of 790 members of families with Mendelian disease. Eur J Hum Genet. 2017 May;25(5):530-537. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2017.21. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 28272539.
  2. Mathews DJH, Hester M, Kahn J, et al. Articulating the Goals and Proposing a Conceptual Model for the Translation of Bioethics Research and Scholarship. Hastings Cent Rep. 2016 Sep;46(5):34-9. doi 10.1002/hast.615. PMID: 27649827.
  3. Topazian R, Bollinger J, Weinfurt K, Dvoskin R, Mathews D, Brelsford K, DeCamp M, Sugarman J. Physicians’ Perspectives Regarding Pragmatic Clinical Trials. J Comp Eff Res. 2016 Jul 15. [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.2217/cer-2016-0024. PMID: 27417953.
  4. Mathews DJ, Chan S, Donovan PJ, et al. CRISPR: A Path Through the Thicket. Nature. 2015 Nov 12;527(7577):159-61. doi: 10.1038/527159a. PMID: 26560284.
  5. Chong JX, Buckingham KJ, Jhangiani SN, Boehm C, Sobreira N, Smith JD, Harrell TM, McMillin MJ, Wiszniewski W, Gambin T, Coban Akdemir ZH, Doheny K, Scott AF, Avramopoulos D, Chakravarti A, Hoover-Fong J, Mathews D, et al. The Genetic Basis of Mendelian Phenotypes: Discoveries, Challenges, and Opportunities. Am J Hum Genet. 2015 Aug 6;97(2):199-215. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2015.06.009. Epub 2015 Jul 9. Review. PMID: 26166479.
  6. Chan S, Donovan PJ, Douglas T, Gyngell C, Harris J, Lovell-Badge R, Mathews DJ, Regenberg A; Hinxton Group. Genome Editing Technologies and Human Germline Genetic Modification: The Hinxton Group Consensus Statement. Am J Bioeth. 2015;15(12):42-7. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2015.1103814. PMID: 26632362.
  7. Sliva A, Yang H, Boeke JD, Mathews DJ. Freedom and Responsibility in Synthetic Genomics: The Synthetic Yeast Project. Genetics. 2015 Aug;200(4):1021-8. doi: 10.1534/genetics.115.176370. PMID: 26272997.
  8. Mathews DJLanguage Matters.J Med Ethics. 2014 Nov;40(11):733-4. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2013-101808. Epub 2013 Sep 17. PMID: 24045771.
  9. Bell E, Racine É, Chiasson P, Dufourcq-Brana M, Dunn LB, Fins JJ, Ford PJ, Glannon W, Lipsman N, Macdonald ME, McAndrews MP, Mathews DJH. Beyond Consent in Research: Revisiting Vulnerability in Deep Brain Stimulation for Psychiatric Disorders.Camb Q of Healthc Ethics. 14 Jul 2014. 23(3): 361-8. PMID: 24865371.
  10. Mathews DJH and Jamal L. Revisiting Respect for Persons in Genomic Research. Genes. 2014. 5(1): 1-12. PMID: 24705284.