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UCSF, Kaiser Permanente Launch Translational Genomics Ethics Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of California, San Francisco, Kaiser Permanente, and the UC Hastings School of Law will use a $780,000 grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute to create a new center that will focus on the ethical, legal, and social implications of the use of genomics in healthcare, UCSF said on Thursday.

Kaiser Permanente and UCSF have a history of working together in human genomics research. They have collaborated since 2008 on the Research Program on Genes, Environment, and Health, a biobank of over 200,000 genetic samples from Kaiser Permanente Northern California members that is being used in epidemiological studies of genetic and environmental influences on health and disease.

Their new joint effort, the Center for Transdisciplinary ELSI Research in Translational Genomics (CT2G) is a three-year project. The center will be co-directed by Barbara Koenig, a professor of medical anthropology and bioethics at the UCSF School of Nursing, and Carol Somkin, a research scientist in the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

The CT2G will work to create cooperation among a range of stakeholders, including researchers, policymakers, and clinicians from a range of fields and specialties, and it will seek to develop plans for how to educate the next generation of these stakeholders about the ELSI issues involved in genomics and address questions about genomic data privacy.

"A decade after the human genome was fully mapped, figuring out how to translate genomic findings into prevention and clinical care has become a public health priority," Koenig said in a statement.

"How do we take basic scientific findings, like mapping of the human genome, and transform them into applications that can help us better understand the causes of disease, their prevention and treatment?" Koenig asked.

"These new genomic discoveries raise complex ethical and social issues," added Julie Harris-Wai, associate director for the new center and a staff scientist in the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

"We have to be able to work across many disciplines to get something that's useful to individuals," Harris-Wai said. "We will identify target areas and work collectively to come up with guidelines and advice for translating genomics information into clinical care."