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NHGRI funds assessment of public attitudes about population-based studies on genes and environment

BETHESDA, Md., Thurs., Sept. 28, 2006 The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced it has awarded $2 million to the Genetics and Public Policy Center of the Berman Bioethics Institute at Johns Hopkins University to conduct a public discussion about future potential large U.S. population-based studies examining the roles of genes and environment in human health.

"Data from the Human Genome Project, a better understanding of human genetic variation, and major advances in genetic and environmental technologies have provided an unprecedented opportunity to begin contemplating how large, population-based studies might be designed. Such research could help unravel the complex genetic and environmental factors that contribute to common diseases such as cancer and heart disease," said NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "However, before we even think of moving forward with such a major national enterprise, it is imperative that we begin a dialogue with the American public. This grant opens the door to that discussion."

In 2005, NHGRI, in collaboration with other NIH institutes, commissioned a group of experts in genetics, epidemiology, biostatistics, and ethical, legal, and social issues to examine the scientific rationale and the logistical and technical challenges of a large, population-based study of genes, environment and health in the United States. Such studies are already underway in several other countries. Although funding for such an endeavor has not been identified, carefully outlining and considering the goals and key design aspects of such studies was deemed of high scientific importance.

A large, population-based study likely would involve the participation of hundreds of thousands of U.S. volunteers, who would be followed for a period of many years to ascertain and quantify the major environmental and genetic contributors to common illnesses.
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Contact: Geoff Spencer
spencerg@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
28-Sep-2006


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