2004 Release: NHGRI Launches CEERS

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

news release banner

NHGRI Launches Centers for Excellence in Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Research

Four Sites Selected to Pioneer Interdisciplinary Initiative

Helix Illustration BETHESDA, Md., Aug. 31, 2004 - The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced today the funding of four interdisciplinary centers as part of a new initiative to address some of the most pressing ethical, legal and social questions raised by recent advances in genetic and genomic research.

The initiative, the Centers for Excellence in Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Research, is being led by NHGRI, with significant contributions from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). About $20 million in grants will be awarded over the next five years with DOE contributing $500,000 and NICHD, $450,000. The first four Centers are being established at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland; Duke University, Durham, N.C.; Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.; and the University of Washington, Seattle.

"The NHGRI's pioneering program supporting research in the ethical, legal and social implications of genomic knowledge provides the basis for this exciting new initiative," said NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "We will now build upon this foundation by establishing interdisciplinary research centers that can take an even more dynamic and broad-based approach to identifying and addressing some of the most pressing issues facing individuals, families and communities in the genome era."

Each of the new centers will assemble a team of experts in several disciplines, such as bioethics, law, behavioral and social sciences, clinical research, theology, public policy, and genetic and genomic research. The interdisciplinary nature of these teams will allow the centers to develop innovative research approaches focused on specific sets of issues that relate to the numerous applications of genomic research, including the scientific goals and challenges identified by NHGRI in A Vision for the Future of Genomics Research, which was published in April 2003 in the journal Nature. The centers' output will be critical in formulating and implementing effective and equitable health and social policies related to genomic research. In addition, the centers will create new environments to support the growth of the next generation of researchers on the ethical, legal and social implications of genomic research. Special efforts will be made to recruit potential researchers from under-represented groups.

Elizabeth Thomson, M.S., R.N., of NHGRI's Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) Research Program, said, "The breadth and depth of knowledge and skills that these centers have pulled together is impressive. These centers truly are excellent in every sense of the word. We look forward to the many ways in which their research and other activities will serve to shape discussions and inform future policy decisions related to genetics and genomics."

"Providing funding assistance, in concert with the NHGRI, to two of these centers (Duke and Stanford) reflects the importance that we continue to place on ethical, legal and social implication activities, especially issues of commercialization and of genetic contributions to complex characteristics," said Aristides Patrinos, Ph.D., associate director of DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Office of Science.

The new Centers for Excellence in ELSI Research, their principal investigators and their total funding levels over five years are:

In addition to funding these four centers of excellence, NHGRI announced the award of three exploratory grants that provide two to three years of support to investigators for planning and developing potential new centers at their institutions. Exploratory grants were awarded to:

NHGRI's ELSI Research Program was established in 1990 as an integral part of the Human Genome Project to foster basic and applied research and to support education and outreach activities. The program, which is part of NHGRI's Division of Extramural Research, funds and manages studies related to the ethical, legal and social implications of genetic and genomic research, and also supports workshops, research consortia and policy conferences related to such topics. The ELSI Research Program is the largest sponsor of research on the ethical, legal and social aspects of biomedicine in the world.

NHGRI is one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. For more information about NHGRI's ELSI Research Program, see www.genome.gov/10001618. For more information about NHGRI, see www.genome.gov.


Geoff Spencer, NHGRI
Phone: (301) 402-0911
E-mail: spencerg@mail.nih.gov

Top of page

Last Updated: August 1, 2012