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

Medicine capsules

Personalized Prescriptions Hampered by Insurance Gaps, Doctor Confusion

May 24, 2016

Despite the promise of pharmacogenomics – selecting drugs based on a patient's genetic makeup – significant obstacles to its wide implementation remain. According to an article in Scientific American, "fewer than 10 hospitals around the country. . . are offering pharmacogenomic tests," citing two primary impediments to wider use: inadequate insurance reimbursement and the fact that "doctors are not accustomed to making medication choices using genetics." This matters because each year, "half of all medical patients get a drug that could interact with their genes and cause serious side effects." To build understanding and acceptance of the practice, a research group led by Mary Relling, PharmD, of St. Jude Research Hospital in Memphis, has received funding from the National Institutes of Health to document any new drug-gene relations solidified with new research. Pharmacogenomics is the topic of this year's University of Minnesota Precision Medicine Conference on June 20, featuring nationally-known experts in the field; learn more and register here.  

FDA logo

FDA Announces Final Rules for New Nutrition Labels

May 20, 2016

Today, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it has finalized the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. The changes include a refreshed design that will make it easier for consumers to spot key information such as number of calories and serving size. Reflecting advances in nutrition science, the label will include more information about added sugars, which have been linked to heart disease and currently make up at least 10% of the average American's diet. Serving sizes have been updated to better approximate the portions people actually eat. The new labels have been 2 years in the making, and represent the most significant changes to the label since it was introduced more than 20 years ago. It's hoped the new format will make it easier for consumers to make better, more informed food choices. 

DNA helix plus family genomic map

Genomic Research Privacy Recommendations in the News

May 18, 2016

An article in the Huffington Post by Robert C. Green, MD, MPH (Harvard, Brigham and Women's Hospital) outlines the conclusions reached by a team of researchers led by Consortium chair Susan M. Wolf, JD; Gloria Petersen, PhD (Mayo) and Barbara Koenig, PhD (UCSF). Their charge: to make recommendations regarding the disclosure of genomic incidental findings to family members of research participants. The national working group for the project included Green and other eminent scholars. Thus far, the study has produced consensus recommendations; a published symposium; and a public conference

Biospecimens in lab

Controversy Erupts on Informed Consent for Biospecimens

May 16, 2016

A new proposal by the Obama administration would require scientists who work with human biospecimens to obtain consent from patients prior to using them in research, even when all personal information is removed. The proposed change is part of the revision of the Common Rule, the federal law used to govern research with human participants, which is currently under review. In effect, the new policy would broaden the definition of "human subject" to include tissues, blood, and urine. Some scientists, medical device manufacturers, and advocacy groups are concerned about the chilling effect this could have on research, including the Precision Medicine Initiative. Bioethicists have raised issues about plans to offer new forms of consent, with Consortium collaborator Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD, of Vanderbilt University questioning whether those could be effective: “The idea that this informed consent will be in any way meaningful I think is illusory.” Read an article about the debate from STAT here

Videos of 2015-16 Events Now Available

Stacy Kahn

During the 2015-16 academic year, the Consortium presented a lecture series on cutting-edge issues in microbiota therapeutics; this year's Deinard Memorial Lecture on Law & Medicine on the topic of race, bias and health disparities; and a national conference on research ethics. Click on the following links to view videos: 

Microbiome Research & Microbiota Therapeutics 

2016 Deinard Memorial Lecture on Law & Medicine
Lessons from Ferguson and Beyond: Bias, Health & Justice, Prof. Sidney D. Watson, JD

Scott Kim asking question

Research Ethics Conference
Videos for all sessions of the December, 2015 national conference on Research with Human Participants are available here, including talks by Jeffrey R. Botkin, MD, MPH; Scott Y. H. Kim, MD, PhD; Vanessa Northington Gamble, MD, PhD; and panels on challenges in informed consent, conflicts of interest, and research with vulnerable populations.