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NIH Awards $20M for Studies in Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects of Genomics

September 13, 2004

As part of a new initiative to address pressing ethical, legal and social questions raised by recent advances in genetic and genomic research, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has awarded approximately $20 million in grants to fund interdisciplinary centers within universities around the country over the next five years. NHGRI is one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

According to NIH, each of the centers will assemble a team of experts in several disciplines such as bioethics, law, behavioral and social sciences, clinical research, theology, public policy and genetic and genomic research to develop innovative research approaches focused on specific sets of issues related to genomic research. The centers’ output, according to NIH, will be critical in formulating and implementing effective and equitable health and social polices related to genomic research.

The Department of Energy and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development both contributed significant funding to the effort, which has established the first four centers within the following universities:

  • Case Western Reserve University’s Center for Genetic Research Ethics and Law has been awarded $5.3 million to study the ethical issues in the design and conduct of human genetic research. The center also will conduct research and development resources that will contribute to stronger policies and guidelines in genetic research;
  • The Duke Center for the Study of Public Genomics received $4.8 million to assemble a team to gather and analyze information regarding the role of publication, data and materials sharing, patenting, database protection, and other practices that may affect the flow in information in genetics research;
  • Stanford University School of Medicine’s Center for Integration of Research on Genetics and Ethics was awarded $3.8 million to study the ethical, legal and social consequences of uncovering the genomic contributions that may contribute to behavioral and neurological conditions; and
  • University of Washington’s Center for Genomic Health Care and the Medically Underserved won $4.7 million to conduct research on the ethical, legal and social factors that influence the translation of genetic information to improved human health.

An additional $1.7 million in exploratory grants was awarded to three investigators for support in planning and developing potential new centers within their institutes. The grants were awarded to researchers at Georgetown University, Howard University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

NHGRI’s Ethical, Legal and Social Implications program was established in 1990 as part of the Human Genome Project to foster basic and applied research ant to support education and outreach activities. More information is available at: http://www.nhgri.nih.gov