The National Human Genome Research Institute has selected the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics to establish a "Center of Excellence" to study the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of genomic research. The Berman Institute will receive three years of funding to build on its multidisciplinary expertise in the ethics of human genomics and public health, bringing the fields together in the largely unexplored but crucial study of genomics as applied to infectious disease. The center will be known as GUIDE: Genomic Uses in Infectious Disease & Epidemics.
Pandemic scares in recent years, from SARS to influenza to MERS, necessitate this research, says Gail Geller, a co-principal investigator for GUIDE and faculty member at the Berman Institute. "Infectious diseases account for a significant proportion of illness and death worldwide, across all aspects of society," Geller notes. Recent research has suggested that a person's genes can play a significant role in the severity of viral infection, and even a predisposition to death from flu.
"It is important to begin to map out and address the ELSI issues involved in the use of genomic information for major public health areas like infectious disease, as the science in this area is moving quickly," says Jeffrey Kahn, co-principal investigator with Geller and deputy director at the Berman Institute.
As an exploratory Center for Excellence in ELSI Research (CEER), the GUIDE Center will bring together a multidisciplinary team of Hopkins' global leaders in diverse fields including genomics, immunology and infectious disease, bioethics, epidemiology, public health preparedness, education, and health policy, in keeping with the intention that CEERs create opportunities for trans-disciplinary research. This team will initially explore public health genomics in two case studies of human-to-human infectious disease: pandemic influenza and Hepatitis C.
The research team w
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Johns Hopkins Medicine