The Institute on the Environment (IoneE) has announced the creation of a hub that will provide the Institute's programming to students, staff, and faculty on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth. The new group will be led by IonE Fellow and UMD Swenson College of Science & Engineering Professor Julie Etterson, who will facilitate the expansion of IonE activities on the UMD campus and among regional partners. Etterson notes, “Over the last decade, IonE has established a record of excellence in supporting interdisciplinary research, leadership training, and cross-sector partnerships. [This offshoot] can benefit from that experience and expertise – and, because UMD is a smaller campus in a smaller city, we also have a unique capacity to cultivate interdisciplinary interactions and collaborations that address community-driven problems and have local impact.” IonE is a Consortium member center.
At a conference held last week at the Mayo Clinic, health care professionals discussed the promise and limits of genomic (also known as precision) medicine. According to the Star Tribune, while optimism is justified, Dr. Michael Joyner of Mayo cautioned that "'I like to tell people to drink the Kool-Aid in small doses.' He described a 'hype-filled biomedical narrative' that, he argues, has led people to believe that genetic medicine has accomplished more than it really has." Mayo is participating in the federal All of Us Research program, in which 100 health care organizations in the US are collecting genetic information for one million people. A free conference and national webcast being held in Nashville on Nov. 29 will take the discussion of genomic medicine a step further, focusing on legal and policy solutions to ensure precision medicine doesn't exacerbate health inequities. That event, "Law, Genomic Medicine & Heath Equity" is co-sponsored by the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Consortium on Law & Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences and Minnesota Precision Medicine Collaborative. Learn more and register here.
On October 2-5, 2018, tribal officials, researchers, practitioners, and others will gather at Mystic Lake Casino to discuss the current state of Indigenous and academic scientific knowledge about Native nutrition and food science. Session topics will include nutrition across the lifecycle, intergenerational learning about food and nutrition, learning from Indigenous communities around the world, linking agriculture to nutrition and recovering from historical trauma. The conference is offered by Seeds of Native Health and sponsored by the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute, a Consortium member, and the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community. Learn more and register here.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) has awarded a NAFKI Challenge grant to a team including Jessica Hellmann (left) of the Insitute on the Environment and Bonnie Keeler of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The $500,000, two-year research project, “Institutionalizing Interdisciplinarity," will use sustainability science as the focus of an effort to create and model the infrastructure required to make research across multiple academic areas more common and effective. According to Prof. Hellmann, “Society needs science – and scientists – more than ever, because we need knowledge to confront our greatest societal and environmental challenges. But it takes a special kind of scientist, one who can work side by side with society, to bring about a better future. This project convenes the organizations and leaders who are creating and supporting this new kind of creator and doer. This group can change how science is done, why it is done, and for whom.” The Institute on the Environment (IonE) is a Consortium member, and represents the type of multidisciplinary research at the intersection of science and society the Consortium has pursued and supported since its founding in 2000.
Recent research has raised hopes that new drugs can help slow or reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. While promising breakthroughs abound in this arena, what distinguishes the development of one of these drugs, BAN2401, was the clinical trial's "adaptive design." That approach "ensured that when new subjects were recruited, they were more likely to be assigned to arms of the trial that showed the greatest promise," according to the Los Angeles Times. Advocates for adaptive design note it can make clinical trials more flexible, efficient and ethical because it makes effective treatments more readily available to patients. Critics are concerned that such adaptation opens the door to biased studies. To read a recent symposium on challenges to the conduct of high-quality laboratory research, click here. The other promising drug, Anavex 2-73, was developed using precision medicine approaches. "Researchers [focused on studying a small group of] Alzheimer’s patients who bear a few 'actionable genetic variants.'" These variants were identified by genomic sequencing intended to find participants most likely to have a positive response to the drugs. On Nov. 29, the Consortium is co-sponsoring a free, public conference and webcast, "Law, Genomic Medicine & Health Equity" that will discuss some of the implications of precision medicine for traditionally underserved populations; co-sponsors are the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, Vanderbilt Health, and the Minnesota Precision Medicine Collaborative. The event will be held at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN; to learn more and register, click here.
On Oct. 3, the the Medical Industry Leadership Institute at the Carlson School of Management will host the Convene conference, which aims to bring together university researchers and the health care industry. This year's focus is artificial intelligence; the keynote speaker is Dr. Peter Pronovost, Chief Medical Officer of United Healthcare, who will discuss the "Journey to High Value Healthcare." Also featured is John Hammergren, CEO of McKesson Corporation; he'll be joined by Prof. Stephen Parente to discuss health case and data analytics. University of Minnesota faculty, staff, students and alumni are eligible for discounted tickets -- learn more and register here.
The Masonic Cancer Center, a Consortium member, has announced its first Chainbreaker Breakthrough Cancer Research Grant, which was awarded to a multidisciplinary group of scholars at the University of Minnesota. The team will focus on the connections between microorganisms and cancer, as both potential causes of and treatments for the disease, and will be co-led by Timothy K. Starr, PhD, Assistant Professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health, and Alexander Khoruts, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. The funds for the grant were derived from last year's inaugural Chainbreaker Ride, a two-day bike tour that raised $1.4 million for cancer research. This year's ride begins on Aug. 10, and will include more than 1000 riders who will pedal distances ranging from 25 to 180 miles. Can't ride? You can still help as a "virtual rider" who works to raise funds or serve as a volunteer; learn more here.
The perils of the Big Data era seem to increase every day. The most recent area under scrutiny is the use of personal data by health insurers to track "race, education level, TV habits, marital status, net worth. . . what you post on social media, whether you're behind on your bills, [and] what you order online," according to a new investigative report by ProPublica and NPR. The article notes, "At a time when every week brings a new privacy scandal and worries abound about the misuse of personal information, patient advocates and privacy scholars say the insurance industry’s data gathering runs counter to its touted, and federally required, allegiance to patients’ medical privacy. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, only protects medical information." Patient advocates are concerned data will be used to set insurance rates and can lead to false assumptions about health-related habits, even though it may be factually incorrect. Prof. William McGeveran of the University of Minnesota Law School, contrasts the robust marketplace for personal data in the US to Europe, where "data protection is a constitutional right." McGeveran is a member of the working group for the Consortium's LawSeqSM project.
The advocacy group Public Citizen has filed a complaint with the FDA and Office for Human Research Protections about trials conducted at Hennepin Healthcare (formerly Hennepin County Medical Center), in which paramedics used the sedative ketamine to treat "prehospital agitation." The letter is signed by dozens of bioethicists and medical experts, including Carl Elliott and Leigh Turner of the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics, a Consortium member. According to reporting in the Washington Post, during the 4-year study "paramedics used either the anesthetic ketamine or a different powerful drug to sedate patients. . . . Patients or caregivers were not asked for permission to participate, and they were informed only later that they had become part of a medical experiment." Previous research, also conducted by Hennepin Healthcare, demonstrated that ketamine frequently causes complications that require patients by intubated. Regarding the recently halted study that was the catalyst for the complaint, Leigh Turner notes, “Even if there’s a case for using these drugs, there’s a case for being very judicious about when to use it.” He also expressed concern about the danger of the study influencing decisions by paramedics: “That’s going to lead to a reduction in the scope of clinical judgment, where EMS doesn’t have the full array of medications. The study is playing a role in which medication people get,” Turner said.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have released a new consensus report on returning individual research results, which offers a process-oriented approach that considers the value to the participant, the risks and feasibility of return, and the quality of the research laboratory. The committee that created the report was chaired by Jeffrey R. Botkin (University of Utah School of Medicine) and also included Wylie Burke (University of Washington), Vanessa Northington Gamble (George Washington University), Amy L. McGuire (Baylor College of Medicine) and Consuelo H. Wilkins (Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Meharry Medical College), all of whom are Consortium collaborators. Prof. Wilkins is on the planning committee and will be speaking at our forthcoming conference, Law, Genomic Medicine & Health Equity: How Can Law Support Genomics and Precision Medicine to Advance the Health of Underserved Populations? Learn more about the conference here.