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NIH Pumps $15M Into Studies on Effects of Genomics Information

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health announced that it has awarded roughly $15 million in grant funding to support four projects investigating the ethical, legal, and social questions surrounding the growing availability of genomic information.

The four-year grants will support research conducted through the National Human Genome Research Institute's (NHGRI) Centers of Excellence in Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Research (CEER) program. Areas of investigation include 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, according to the NIH.

"Many ethical and social problems are not solved by experts in a single discipline alone," NHGRI Senior Program Analyst Joy Boyer said in a statement. "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."

Grant recipients include Johns Hopkins researchers Gail Geller and Jeffrey Kahn, who received $4.2 million to examine the ethical implications of using genomic information to help manage the prevention, control, and treatment of infectious diseases. They aim to develop and run three pilot projects to study how genomic data affects infectious disease research, public health policy, and clinical practice.

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine investigators Ellen Wright Clayton and Bradley Malin were awarded $4 million to examine the factors influencing people's perception of risks associated with genomic information. They are also studying the efficacy of legal and policy initiatives to reduce privacy risks, the potential for lapses in genomic information protection efforts, and ways to prevent the loss of genomic information privacy.

University of Utah researcher Jeffrey Botkin received $3.9 million to study how family members communicate about prenatal and neonatal screening, the risks associated with such testing, and related decision making.

Lastly, University of Oklahoma scientists Paul Spicer and Amanda Cobb-Greetham were awarded $3.6 million to work with the Chickasaw and Lakota Sioux tribes and communities, as well as the Southcentral Foundation in Alaska, to study the awareness, knowledge, and attitudes about genomics in these populations with the goal of creating culturally appropriate research and education programs.