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NIH to Study Ethics and Implications of Human Microbiome Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health plans to address the ethical, legal, and social implications of the Human Microbiome Project in a similar way as it did the Human Genome Project, and this week said that it will fund roughly three awards with up to $250,000 per year over three years.
NIH expects that the studies, which it will fund under its Roadmap Program, will identify and begin a deliberation on the complex issues that the microbiome project may generate as researchers continue to sequence and conduct metagenomic analysis on the various microbes that inhabit human bodies.
Applicants may apply for a maximum of $750,000 over the three-year project period, and it expects that the sizes and duration of the awards will vary.
NIH said in a request for applications that there are a number of questions about human microbiome research that the scientists could aim to investigate, including:
  • What are the essential elements of informed consent for participation in human microbiome research? What unique individual, familial, and group privacy concerns are associated with human microbiome research?
  •  What are the potential clinical applications of human microbiome research (for example, diagnostics, probiotics, metabolomics, microbiome ”transplants”) and what ethical, legal, and social issues do they raise?
  • What are the ethical, legal, and social implications of manipulating the human microbiome during the perinatal and neonatal periods of life?
  • What strategies are likely to be most effective for educating the public about the findings of human microbiome research and their implications for health and for society?
More information about the program is available here.

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