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.
According to Wired magazine, "Since the mid-2000s, clinics have been selling expensive, unproven stem-cell treatments to any patient desperate enough to believe their claims of cures for everything from arthritis to autism." These clinics have "been tied to serious infections, several cases of blindness, and one patient’s death." Leigh Turner, a professor at the Center for Bioethics, a Consortium member, has authored several major research papers on the growing availability of questionable stem-cell therapies. Turner notes that despite greater FDA scutiny, which includes an "increase the rule changes and the public hearings and more inspections and warning letters and the lawsuits, the market is still expanding at a rapid rate.” A recent Pro Publica/New Yorker investigation provides additional details of the promotional methods and dubious science that ensnares consumers in these dangerous interventions.
The Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing (CSH), a Consortium member, is among the nation's leading institutions dedicated to research-based approaches to integrative health and healing. CSH is an interdisciplinary unit of the University's Academic Health Center, School of Nursing, Medical School, College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Pharmacy, School of Public Health, and School of Dentistry. Among the resources available from CSH is a website, Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, which provides a self-assessment tool, goal-setting advice, and information about trying holistic practices and managing health conditions. Check out the website here.
A new article in Wired by Megan Molteni describes potentially momentous changes in the legal status of gene patents. According to Molteni, "In 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down patents on two human genes – BRCA1 and BRCA2 – associated with breast and ovarian cancers. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court at the time that isolated DNA 'is a product of nature and not patent eligible.' The historic decision invalidated patents held by Myriad Genetics" and opened the way for companies like 23andMe to offer direct-to-consumer tests of BRCA and other genes. A new bill making its way through Congress would make "changes to several sections of the statutes covering patent law and [add] a provision that would nullify the Supreme Court’s exceptions." The congressional debate is driven by concerns that overly stringent patent rules are hindering US companies from creating potentially lucrative new diagnostic tools, allowing rivals like China to outpace American innovation. Hearings are currently underway to clarify the intention of the bill and ensure it effectively addresses industry concerns. Read the entire Wired article here, and one on the same topic from GenomeWeb here. For more information about genomics law and policy, visit the NIH-funded LawSeqSM website, created by the Consortium in collaboration with Vanderbilt University.
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities has launched the Integrated Food Systems Leadership program (IFSL) designed for working professionals to help bridge the gap between traditional food system education and professional leadership programs. The IFSL program is a graduate-level certification that provides a broader knowledge of how the food system is interconnected – from farm to fork – while promoting critical thinking and problem solving across disciplines. The curriculum was developed through a partnership between the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), the School of Public Health and the College of Veterinary Medicine. The director of the IFSL program, Jennifer van de Ligt, is on the faculty of the Food Protection and Defense Institute, a Consortium member. Applications are currently being accepted for September 2019 admissions; learn more here.