4 VLS faculty on NIH-funded team studying “genetic privacy”

May 18, 2016

Professor Ellen ClaytonEllen Wright Clayton, the Craig-Weaver Professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt Medical School and a professor of law, will co-direct a research team that has received a four-year, $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish a new center for the study of privacy concerns associated with the use of genomic information.

The NIH announced the grant May 17.

Clayton and Bradley Malin, associate professor of biomedical informatics and computer science, will co-direct a transinstitutional team representing more than a dozen schools and academic departments at Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The Vanderbilt Center for Genetic Privacy and Identity in Community Settings will examine the likelihood that lapses in protecting genomic information allow people to be identified, how people perceive such risks, and how effective legal and policy efforts are in reducing them.

“We’re really broadening our horizons to think about how history and public opinion and literature affect the way individuals and communities think about privacy concerns,” Clayton said. “Ultimately the goal is to develop policy recommendations that address the complexity of what’s at stake.”

The Vanderbilt effort will be truly “trans-institutional,” said Malin, who is an expert on genomic information privacy issues.

Team members on the law faculty include:

  • Christopher Slobogin, the Milton R. Underwood Professor of Law, and professor of Psychiatry;
  • Sarah Igo, associate professor of history, law, dociology and American studies; and
  • Lydia Jones,  adjunct professor of Law and an expert on privacy law.

Team members from other schools include:

  • Melinda Buntin, chair of the department of health policy at Vanderbilt School of Medicine;
  • Jay Clayton, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English and director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy;
  • Nancy Cox, the Mary Phillips Edmonds Gray Professor and director of the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute at Vanderbilt Medical School,
  • Dan Roden, the William Stokes Professor of Experimental Therapeutics and senior vice president for personalized medicine at Vanderbilt Medical Center;
  • Myrna Wooders, Ph.D., professor of economics;
  • Melissa McPheeters, research associate professor of Health Policy and Medicine, Vanderbilt Medical School;
  • Consuelo Wilkins, associate professor of medicine, director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance and an expert on community engagement in research;
  • Claire Sisco King, assistant professor of communications studies;
  • Laurie Novak,  assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt Medical School and an organizational anthropologist–a field that studies how things work in the real world;
  • Lijun Song, associate professor of sociology; and
  • Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering;

Vanderbilt’s is one of four grants awarded through the Centers of Excellence in Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Research (CEER) program of the National Human Genome Research Institute to address questions raised by advances in genomics research and the increasing availability of genomic information. The other awardees are Johns Hopkins University, University of Utah and University of Oklahoma.

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