Skip to main content

News & Media

News & Media Front Page

Duke to Launch New Institute for Genomic Sciences and Policy

Duke to Launch New Institute for Genomic Sciences and Policy
Duke to Launch New Institute for Genomic Sciences and Policy


Duke Health News Duke Health News

DURHAM, N.C. - How parents will cope with genetic testing of
their newborn children, and how scientists will meet the
research challenges of the genomic revolution, will be among
the topics discussed during the Nov. 20 launch of Duke
University's new $200 million Institute for Genome Sciences and

The day-long program of symposia and roundtable discussions
will feature a keynote address by Richard Klausner, director of
the National Cancer Institute, followed by a panel discussion
involving two medical ethicists, a former member of the
National Science Board and a congressional advocate for
biomedical research. The symposia and discussions are free and
open to the public. The day's events begin with a 1:30 - 4:45
p.m. symposium on the institute's five centers, to be held in
Room 103 of the Bryan Research Building on Research Drive. The
keynote address and roundtable discussion on genomics will
begin at 7 p.m. in Reynolds Auditorium, located in the Bryan
University Center on Science Drive.

Duke officials say the new institute represents a
comprehensive approach to the broad challenges of the genomic
revolution. The institute involves not only scientists,
engineers and physicians who are working to advance the
fundamental basic knowledge of genome science and technologies,
but Duke scholars in business, ethics, economics, law, public
policy, religion and the environment.

The genomics institute seeks to ensure that the ethical and
policy issues arising from the unraveling of the genetic code
and corresponding technological advances are fully explored to
the betterment of society. Further, the institute seeks to
integrate those discoveries into the nation's health care
system and to transfer effectively the intellectual property
from biomedical discoveries to the private sector.

Duke President Nannerl O. Keohane said the university will
invest more than $200 million over the next five years to
launch and sustain the new institute. This commitment will be a
priority in a long-term strategic plan for the university that
will be submitted to the Board of Trustees for formal approval
in February, Keohane said.

"The study of the vast scientific and cultural landscape in
which nature translates DNA into the intricate structures of
life holds enormous promise for exploring the art of the
possible," Keohane said. "But genomics is not just about
expanding knowledge of genetics, but what society can and
should do with such knowledge.

"The ethical, legal, theological and policy challenges are
daunting, and the constellation of Duke programs - from our
Kenan Institute for Ethics to the Nicholas School of the
Environment to our law school - uniquely position Duke to
advance understanding across all these areas. If the next
generation is to devise humane and moral guidelines for
incorporating genomics into everyday life, their decisions will
be informed by the work our faculty and students do," Keohane

The events begin at 1:30 p.m. with a symposium that includes
directors of the five genomics institute's centers. The
directors will describe their perspectives on genomics and
their centers' plans to meet the challenges presented by the
burgeoning field. Speakers will include:

Margaret Pericak-Vance, James B. Duke professor of medicine,
on the Center for Human Genetics;

Marc G. Caron, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator
and James B. Duke professor of cell biology, on the Center for
Human Disease Models;

Joseph R. Nevins, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
investigator, James B. Duke professor and chairman of the
department of genetics, on the Center for Genome

James N. Siedow, vice provost for research-designate and
professor of biology, on the Center for Bioinformatics and
Computational Biology;

Elizabeth Kiss, director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics
and associate professor of the practice of political science
and philosophy, on the Center for Genome Ethics, Law and

The 7 p.m. keynote address by Klausner will discuss cancer
research involving genomic technologies and the use of mouse
models to study cancer and promising future technologies that
will have an impact on the diagnosis and understanding of

In assessing the National Cancer Institute's progress,
Klausner has written, "The revolution in molecular biology,
along with the emergence of powerful new technologies, have
enabled us to gather an impressive body of knowledge about
cancer's very nature."

"Today we are able to identify many of the biological
pathways in a cell that become disrupted in cancer, and we are
getting a fuller understanding about how such changes
contribute to a cancer cell's abnormal and dangerous behavior
in the body," Klausner said. "We are also gaining important
insights into how the vulnerability of DNA, our genetic
material, and elements in our environment and lifestyle
interact to give rise to this disease.

"To the many who struggle with cancer, the striking changes
in the science and technology of cancer research are reflected
in marked improvements in treatments and a heightened chance
for survival. They also are reflected in more effective
prevention, particularly for those who may be at increased risk
for the disease."

Klausner's address will be followed by a roundtable
discussion on critical issues in genomics, to be moderated by
Keohane. She will challenge the panelists with a near-future
scenario in which parents of an infant find themselves coping
with information from genetic testing on their child's future
susceptibility to such disorders as cancer and heart disease.
In particular, she will pose questions to the panelists

The reality and consequences of genetic testing; the ethical
use of clinical material derived from such testing; the role of
universities in genomics research, and the role of the federal
government in balancing private and public needs.

In addition to Klausner, panelists will include Arthur
Kaplan, professor of bioethics and director of the Center for
Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania; Marye Anne Fox,
chancellor of North Carolina State University and a former
member of the National Science Board; Henry Greeley, professor
of law and genetics, Stanford University; and Congressman John
Edward Porter, chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services
and Education Subcommittee of the House Appropriations
Committee. Porter is a leader in congressional efforts to
double funding for the National Institutes of Health, the
principal source of funding for biomedical research.

The university has already begun construction or planning
for two major facilities that will support the work of the
genomics institute - a $41 million Center for Human Disease
Models building and a $35 million Center for Human Genetics.
The Center for Human Disease Models aims to make the mouse a
much more effective surrogate for human disease. The center
will permit scientists to use gene-engineered mice in a way
much like human populations are studied to better understand
more complex diseases such as hypertension, heart failure and
behavioral disorders.

The building to house the existing Center for Human Genetics
will enhance the ability of the center's researchers to use
family histories, sophisticated molecular analysis and
statistical genetics to reveal the genetic origin of a wide
array of disorders. In particular, the building will greatly
aid the center's progress from exploring apparent single-gene
disorders, such as the muscular dystrophies, to those that are
far more subtle, such as Alzheimer's and cardiovascular

In addition to new construction, centers of the genomics
institute have launched research initiatives that utilize
genome analysis to study cancer, cardiovascular disease, fungal
pathogenesis and gene-environment interactions. The centers
also have developed doctoral and postdoctoral programs in a
combined informatics/genome technology program and will host a
series of seminars and symposia on genome sciences and

News & Media Front Page