Four new grants from the National Institutes of Health will support research on the ethical, legal and social questions raised by advances in genomics research and the increasing availability of genomic information. The awards will fund researchers at interdisciplinary centers through the National Human Genome Research Institute’s (NHGRI) Centers of Excellence in Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Research (CEER) program.
The projects will examine the use of genomic information in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases; genomic information privacy; communication about prenatal and newborn genomic testing results; and the impact of genomics in American Indian and Alaskan Native communities.
“Many ethical and social problems are not solved by experts in a single discipline alone,” said Joy Boyer, senior program analyst in NHGRI’s Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Research Program. “The CEER program brings together experts from often disparate fields who speak different languages and forms centers where they can study issues across disciplines. These grants are diverse and forward-looking, while also relevant to public health and medicine today.”
The CEER program, established in 2004, is designed to bring together experts in wide-ranging fields—bioethics, law, behavioral and social sciences, epidemiology, public health, public policy, genomics and clinical research—to study the potential societal implications of genomic information and research. CEER projects also help inform public policy and research guidelines, in addition to educating the next generation of researchers.
Each center is built so researchers can look to the future within specific focus areas. “They enable researchers to anticipate new questions and issues that will arise in their particular field of study, and understand how to address them,” said Lawrence Brody, Ph.D., director of the NHGRI Division of Genomics and Society. “The centers examine the human side of research advances, and tackle subjects at the interface of ever-changing technology and medicine.”
The grants, totaling approximately $15 million over four years (pending available funds), will support the following research projects: