Rising measles infections in the US and the spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) illustrate the difficulty of controlling outbreaks once they start. The spike in measles represents a major setback, since the vaccine was first introduced in 1963 and the Americas were declared measles-free in 2002. An article on the website of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), a Consortium member, notes there were 704 cases of measles in 22 states as of April 26; that puts the US on pace to exceed the previous post-vaccine record of 963 cases in 1994. While the Ebola outbreak in the DRC is receiving less media attention, it is far deadlier, with 1,466 cases and 957 deaths. CIDRAP reports that the difficult security situation in the DRC is a significant factor in managing the spread of the illness: "Throughout the outbreak, violent attacks have been followed by a rise in cases as surveillance and outbreak response is temporarily halted in the attack aftermath." CIDRAP provides daily updates on major infectious disease activity; visit their website here. Image of affected regions of the DRC courtesy of NordNordWest.
A new online resource, developed by experts in the Clinicial and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and the Department of Pediatrics, is now available to University of Minnesota clinical researchers, grant coordinators and others to help them save time when completing the National Institutes of Health Study Record, which is used to collect information on proposed human subjects research, clinical research, and clinical trials. The “Successfully Navigating the NIH Study Record” course is a curated collection of NIH instructions that take applicants step-by-step through the completion of the NIH Study Record. In addition, the resource offers answers to frequently asked questions, tips, and expert opinion about how to complete the Study Record. The resource is now available in the University of Minnesota’s Training Hub. CTSI is a Consortium member center.
An article in Nature describes the need for more diversity in genomic research. As of 2018, 78% of data use in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) were derived from people of European descent. Last November, the Consortium sponsored a conference, "Law, Genomic Medicine & Health Equity: How Can Law Support Genomics and Precision Medicine to Advance the Health of Underserved Populations?" Among the speakers was Nanibaa' Garrison (Seattle Children's, University of Washington). Prof. Garrison, a member of the Navajo Nation, works with Native American leaders to address ethical concerns about genetic research within tribal communities. View her presentation, along with a related one by Native scholar Spero Manson (University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus). The conference, held at Meharry Medical College, was co-sponsored by the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, and the Minnesota Precision Medicine Collaborative.
On April 3, Prof. Lisa Ikemoto, JD, LLM (UC Davis School of Law) gave a provocative lecture in which she described current uses of biohacking – bodily modification to enhance human capacity – and their implications for law, regulation and conceptions of what is human. She related examples from the diverse community of biohackers and transhumanists, who share an optimistic view of the potential for improving bodies through technology, and discussed the ways their pursuits are the same as and different from previous practices like scientific self-experimentation. Prof. Francis X. Shen, JD, PhD (University of Minnesota Law School) commented on Prof. Ikemoto's talk, furthering her exploration of the spectrum of bodily modification, from familiar technology such as pacemakers and prosthetics to new devices that use electronic brain stimulation to increase user energy. The event was moderated by Prof. John Bischof, PhD (Institute for Engineering in Medicine, University of Minnesota). Video will be posted soon; to be notified when it's available, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The fourth annual University of Minnesota Research Ethics Conference, held on March 6, explored how big changes in rules and oversight are affecting researchers and research participants. Recordings of all sessions – including plenary talks by Carrie D. Wolinetz (National Institutes of Health), Pearl O'Rourke (Partners HealthCare, Harvard Medical School, All of Us Research Program) and Jeremy Wolfe (Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital) – can be viewed here. Videos of most Consortium events are archived on our YouTube channel at z.umn.edu/ConsortiumYouTube.
Each year, the Consortium funds research projects related to the intersection of science and society. In November, 2018, we issued a call for proposals to graduate and professional students at the University of Minnesota, to provide a stipend for research and writing in the Summer 2019 or academic year 2019-20. We were delighted to receive proposals from 28 students in 21 programs around the University. Six awards were made for a total of $34,650. Learn more about these successful applications and Consortium-funded research from previous years here.