Consortium Introduction

The Consortium conducts original research, serves students and faculty, and advances public dialogue and understanding on emerging issues at the intersection of science and society.

Latest News

CDC bar graph of positive flu tests Feb 2018

Current Flu Season Sparks Discussion of Prevention, Vaccines

February 21, 2018

Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) host Mike Mulcahy interviewed two experts yesterday about this year's unusually strong — and deadly — outbreak of influenza. Patsy Stinchfield of Children's Minnesota focused on steps to prevent the illness. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), a Consortium member, outlined the challenges to developing effective vaccines. Osterholm co-authored a New York Times op ed in January, with Mark Olshaker, sounding the alarm on our lack of preparedness for a flu pandemic. They write: "A worldwide influenza pandemic is literally the worst-case scenario in public health — yet far from an unthinkable occurrence. Unless we make changes, the question is not if but when it will come."

C difficile bacteria

Research Reveals Exciting New Possibilities for Microbiome Therapies

February 15, 2018

A major paper just published in Cell Host & Microbe sheds light on a question that has puzzled scientists for years: while we know fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) works for people suffering from recurrent Clostridium difficile infection, how exactly does it work? The research team behind the paper includes Consortium collaborators Alexander Khoruts and Michael J. Sadowsky, the director of the Biotechnology Institute, a Consortium member center. They used clinical experiments and statistical modeling to uncover the "rules" for how donor bacteria grafts itself to existing gut microbes in the host. One of the outcomes of the research is Strain Finder, a method to predict which types of bacteria will best colonize a microbiome being treated via FMT. In addition to its implications for the treatment of C. diff, the study findings may also help with therapies for metabolic syndrome as well as other common conditions. Prof. Khoruts gave a lecture on The Evolving Human Microbiome that was moderated by Michael J. Sadowsky; it's been viewed thousands of times because it provides a coherent overview of this fascinating subject; you can view it here. More recently, Martin J. Blaser spoke about the effects of antibiotics on the human microbiome; you can view his lecture here

Baby

Georgieff Co-authors AAP Policy Statement on Infant Nutrition

February 12, 2018

Two University of Minnesota professors have co-authored a major nutrition policy paper on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Sarah Jane Schwarzenberg of Masonic Children's Hospital and Michael K. Georgieff of the Center for Neurobehavioral Development, a Consortium member, wrote the report on behalf of the AAP's Committee on Nutrition. The article recommends foods that ensure healthy brain development in the first three years of life. It also notes that, while breast milk is preferable for a baby's first six months, after that breastfeeding moms and their partners should supplement infant diets with a variety of foods rich in iron and zinc, including lean meats, fruits and vegetables. An article in MedPage Today outlines the paper's policy recommendations related to major programs such as Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), all of which are important to ensuring the availability of healthy food options. The authors encourage pediatricians to provide guidance on "informed food choices" and help families connect with nutritional programs such as food pantries and soup kitchens. Prof. Georgieff is a member of the Consortium's Executive Committee

Martin J. Blaser

Blaser Shares Groundbreaking Research on Antibiotics and Microbiome Health

February 7, 2018

Today, Martin J. Blaser of New York University's School of Medicine spoke to a standing-room-only crowd on "The Dark Side of Antibiotics." Prof. Blaser provided an overview of what we've learned about changes to the human microbiome over the past 70+ years. His talk focused on obesity, diabetes, asthma and other harms that appear to be linked to the aggressive use of antibiotics. Prof. Blaser also outlined research indicating that microbiome characteristics can be passed from mother to child, leading to ever more limited microbiotic diversity over generations. He looked at global differences in the human microbiome related to the number of antibiotics prescribed, and discussed the more judicious use of these drugs in countries like Sweden, where antibiotics are prescribed less frequently but health measures are still strong. Finally, he described some possible approaches to microbiome restoration. James R. Johnson, an infectious disease specialist, provided a commentary in which he discussed the various ways antibiotics have been viewed by medical professionals since coming into wide usage in the early 1940s. Prof. Johnson offered a clinical perspective on the challenges of limiting their use. A video of the entire talk can be viewed here.  

Upcoming Events

Consortium Updates

Call for Proposals: Consortium Research Awards

Each year, the Consortium provides funding for intramural projects related to the societal implications of problems in health, environment, and the life sciences. Grants will be awarded in spring 2018 to UMN graduate and professional students for work during the summer of 2018 and academic year 2018-19. Student organizations may apply for these grants. Deadline for proposals is Feb. 12, 2018. To learn more and get application materials, click here

Job Opportunity: Associate Director of Research

The Consortium is seeking a highly qualified individual to collaborate on research, publication, and educational activities on the legal, ethical, and societal implications of biomedicine and the life sciences. Current funded projects focus on genomics, precision medicine, and emerging technologies. This full-time position reports to the Consortium Chair, Prof. Susan M. Wolf and works with colleagues across the University. Applicants must have completed a J.D., Ph.D. or other relevant degree; present an outstanding record of research and publication; demonstrate clear potential for continued scholarly excellence and accomplishment; show outstanding written and verbal communication skills; bring a high level of organizational and computer skills; and show a demonstrated capacity to work well in a collaborative environment to accomplish scholarly and interdisciplinary goals. A complete job description can be found here.