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Announcing the first Director of NHGRI's Division of Genomics and Society

November 14th, 2013

Lawrence Brody. Click for high-resolutionFollowing an extensive search process, I am delighted to announce my selection for the first Director of the newly established Division of Genomics and Society: Dr. Larry Brody. A long-standing member of the Institute, Larry is currently Chief of the Genome Technology Branch within our Intramural Research Program and Chief Scientific Officer of the trans-NIH Center for Inherited Disease Research.

I established the Division of Genomics and Society in 2012 as part of an Institute-wide reorganization. It is one of four divisions that make up the Institute's Extramural Research Program. The Division of Genomics and Society is now responsible for overseeing an expanded program related to the many societal issues relevant to genomics research and genomic advances, incorporating and extending the activities of NHGRI's Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) Research Program. The latter was established in 1990 as part of the Human Genome Project, and aims to pursue multidisciplinary research and training designed to explore the impact of genomics on society.

Larry's expertise and interests are wide-ranging, from human genetics and genomics to the public understanding of science. As a bench scientist, he played an instrumental role in early and important discoveries about the BRCA1 gene, which is responsible for a hereditary form of breast cancer. His research efforts have regularly included studying the practical implications of genomics. For example, Larry was a co-architect (along with Dr. Colleen McBride) of the NHGRI Multiplex Initiative, an innovative project that aimed to better understand how the general public comprehends and reacts to personal genetic testing results.

Larry has also invested considerable amounts of his professional efforts to addressing the broader societal issues relevant to contemporary genomics research. He has worked on several projects related to genomics, society, and minority populations and, most recently, he served as a key developer of the public exhibition "Genome: Unlocking Life's Code," which opened in June at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Moreover, on multiple occasions, he worked closely with the U.S. Solicitor General in the drafting and editing of legal briefs and in the preparation of oral arguments for the gene-patenting case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year. Larry brings an extraordinary and diverse body of accomplishments and credentials that will serve him well in leading this newly created Division. His perspective as an active researcher combined with a demonstrated long-term interest in the intersection of science and society makes him uniquely qualified to lead this critical part of NHGRI's research program. I have worked with Larry for nearly 20 years, all while we have both been at NHGRI. He is one of the most engaging and generous colleagues that I know, and I am extremely excited to have him join my core leadership team at the Institute.

Finally, I want to express my profound thanks to Dr. Mark Guyer (NHGRI Deputy Director), who has served as the Acting Director of the Division of Genomics and Society on an interim basis while the search for a permanent Director was conducted. Mark's stewardship of the Division for the past year has been outstanding. Also, a special thanks to Karen Rothenberg (my Senior Advisor on Genomics and Society), who has been extremely helpful in the formulation of plans for this new Division and in preparations for the arrival of the permanent Director. Karen will continue to be an important part of our efforts to develop the vision for this Division and the Institute's activities in this area more broadly.

Please join me in welcoming Larry Brody to his new role as an NHGRI Division Director!   

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Posted: December 10, 2013