A Decade of the Social and Behavioral Research Branch

January 7th, 2014

As mentioned in last month's The Genomics Landscape, the NHGRI Intramural Research Program (IRP) recently reached its 20-year milestone.  With its diverse spectrum of research- from genomic technology development to clinical genomics research and everything in between- the NHGRI IRP continues to serve as an important focal point for genomics research at NIH and worldwide.  One of the IRP's key contributions to genomics research is the Social and Behavioral Research Branch (SBRB), now celebrating its 10th anniversary.
 
In my former position as the NHGRI Scientific Director, I recognized the need for a social science research program within the Institute's IRP.  So, ten years ago, I recruited Dr. Colleen McBride to NHGRI, and she established the SBRB (for details, see genome.gov/11509318).  The mission of SBRB is to investigate the social and behavioral factors that affect the translation of genetic and genomic discoveries for health promotion, disease prevention, and healthcare improvements.  The Branch's research encompasses four domains: (1) testing the effectiveness of strategies for communicating information about genetic risk; (2) developing and evaluating behavioral interventions; (3) using genomic advances in clinical practice; and (4) understanding the social, ethical, and policy implications of genomics research.
 
The specific research areas being investigated by SBRB scientists include improving methods for communicating genetic risk to lay populations, establishing best practices in genetic counseling, investigating approaches for integrating genetics into primary care settings, and studying broad issues related to the public dissemination of genomic discoveries.  SBRB investigators are also examining the bioethical considerations for the involvement of human subjects in genomics research.  One of the Branch's unique resources is the Immersive Virtual Environment Testing Area, which uses virtual reality technology to study social and behavioral hypotheses.
 
SBRB has much to celebrate after its first decade.  The Branch's anniversary celebration began in June 2013 with a set of paired lectures as part of the NHGRI seminar series commemorating the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project.  Drs. Caryn Lerman and Alexandra Shields presented talks on "Translating Pharmacogenetics Research to Practice: The Case Example of Smoking Cessation." These two lectures can be viewed on GenomeTV (at youtube.com).  SBRB's 10th anniversary celebration will culminate with a scientific symposium on January 13 entitled "Translating Genomics through a Social and Behavioral Lens." A video from the symposium will be available on GenomeTV shortly thereafter.

 To learn more about SBRB, the Branch's investigators, and their exciting research programs, please visit genome.gov/11508935.  NHGRI is privileged to have this impressive cadre of scientists working within the Institute's IRP!

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Posted: February 5, 2014