Videos of all sessions of the LawSeqSM conference are now available. This event brought together an eminent group of scientists, researchers, attorneys and clinicians on the campus of the University of Minnesota to grapple with gaps and areas of confusion in genomic law. The symposium was part of the LawSeqSM project, an NIH-funded effort to shape the future of law and policy to encourage the translation of genomic medicine from lab to clinic. View the conference videos here. A related resource is the LawSeqSM genomic law website, which includes a searchable database of relevant state and federal law as well as articles and commentaries to provide context.
MnDRIVE Environment invites proposals from University of Minnesota faculty for Industrial Partnership Bioremediation Seed Grants; deadline is June 20, 2019. The goal of the seed grant program is to improve bioremediation/biodegradation strategies and their industrial applications through improved understanding, augmentation, or alteration of microorganisms or microbial communities. Faculty research may include basic and applied components, though preference will be given to translational research using microorganisms in environmental cleanup. Only new projects will be considered and seed grant funds may not be used to support existing studies. Applications should emphasize relevance to Minnesota’s industry and environment. Learn more here. Minnesota’s Discovery, Research, and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) is a partnership between the University of Minnesota and the State of Minnesota that aligns areas of research strength with the state’s key and emerging industries; focus areas include Robotics, Global Food, Environment, Brain Conditions and Cancer Clinical Trials.
The US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and the Royal Society of the UK have announced the formation of an expert group to develop a framework to guide scientists, clinicians and regulators in their use of human germline genome editing. According to the release, "The commission is the latest action from the international science community to address issues around human genome editing. It follows [last November's] Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong," where scientist He Jiankui shocked attendees by revealing the birth of twins whose genomes had been edited. Germline editing is of particular concern because genetic changes will be passed down to future generations, greatly expanding the potential for disastrous, unanticipated outcomes. “'These revelations at the summit in Hong Kong underscore the urgent need for an internationally accepted framework to help . . . address the complex scientific and medical issues surrounding clinical use of germline genome editing,' said NAM President Victor J. Dzau and Royal Society Vice-President John Skehel, co-chairs of the commission’s international oversight board, in a joint statement." The law and policy related to clinical uses of genomic medicine are among the topics addressed in the LawSeqSM project, co-led by Consortium Chair Susan M. Wolf. Learn more about relevant, existing regulations here.
Kate Brauman's day job is at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment (IonE), a Consortium member. There, she is lead scientist for IonE's Global Water Assessment, which incorporates policy and economic approaches into water resource management. Recently, however, she's been tapped as a spokesperson for her contribution to the shocking, recent United Nations report on the accelerating rate of species extinction. An article in the Star Tribune describes the report's findings and Brauman's role in developing a major section on natural water systems and serving as coordinating lead author for the entire report. Brauman has been interviewed by media outlets throughout North America and in Europe, Asian and the Middle East. You can read her full bio here.
While outbreaks of measles and Ebola are dominating the news, African swine fever (ASF) "has wiped out pork productions across China, Mongolia, Vietnam, and most recently, Cambodia, without signs of stopping," according to Popular Science. ASF has already claimed more than 1 million pigs in China alone. Though the illness can't be contracted by humans (as can swine flu), it's highly contagious and threatens the food supply in countries that are dependent on pork. Andres Perez, director of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS), notes, “Rather than spreading rapidly and then burning out . . . . the virus adapted to different environments. Because of that adaptation, it’s behaving differently than expected." CAHFS, a Consortium member, has developed a multimedia toolkit called ASFWatch, which focuses on educating producers about ASF, how it’s spread, and what they can do to prevent it from entering the US.
Two major media outlets have run coverage of last week's LawSeqSM conference and webcast, held on the University of Minnesota campus. Science Magazine focused on the difficulty of accurately interpreting genomic variants, and the legal liability claims that could result. The article quotes Prof. James Evans (University of North Carolina), a member of the LawSeqSM working group: “The genome is static, but our ability to analyze it and interpret it is undergoing dramatic change. We don’t understand most of these variants, nor their potential impact on health and diseases . . . and we change our minds a lot, which is kind of frightening for patients.” In Wired Magazine, the writer homed in on genetic privacy, including observations by Mark Rothstein (University of Louisville), also a member of the working group. He stated, “In the US we have taken to protecting genetic information separately rather than using more general privacy laws, and most of the people who’ve looked at it have concluded that’s a really bad idea." Rothstein contrasted US laws and policy with those of the European Union, where DNA is treated as personal data. The LawSeqSM conference is part of an NIH-funded project to map the law of genomics for translation from laboratory into clinical settings. Learn more about LawSeqSM here.