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Genomics in Open Spaces, Genetic Testing Regulation, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences


In the April 2002 issue of Genome Technology, we took a look at the new facilities being built to house the growing genomics field. Many of the new spaces were being envisioned as open laboratories with flexible designs. "We give the scientists the ability to reinvent the space," Rafael Viñoly, who designed the building housing the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University, said at the time. Some institutes looked to literally break down walls: The Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan was built with no walls between labs. And more labs are following that open-space trend. The Broad Institute broke ground on a new building last fall that will provide researchers with collaborative workspaces.

In 2007, GT spoke with Gail Javitt, then the law and policy director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University, about regulating genetic tests. Javitt said that the regulatory framework for overseeing genetic tests was "arbitrary" and "not based on levels of risk of a genetic test." She advised that interested parties come up with a new framework based, in part, on risk. Javitt is now counsel in the food and drug regulatory division of law firm Sidley Austin's Washington, DC, office. In a 2010 Nature opinion piece, Javitt argued that direct-to-consumer genetic tests should be treated like all other genetic tests, and that FDA should put a regulatory framework in place to ensure the tests' quality and assess the risks they pose.

At this time last year, researchers were waiting to see whether the plan for the contentious National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences would pan out. The plan called for the redistribution of a number of National Institutes of Health programs and for the dismantling of the National Center for Research Resources. At the 2011 Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities meeting in San Antonio, Texas, Wake Forest University's Mark Lively said the National Advisory Research Resources Council, which advised NCRR, was concerned about the process. "We are questioning the manner in which it was done," Lively said. The fate of NCATS and NCRR was in limbo while the US Congress bickered over the federal budget, but ultimately, in December 2011, NCATS sprang into being while NCRR faded away.

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