Bioethics News

Center of Excellence in ELSI Research

The National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics a “Center of Excellence” grant to study the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of applying genomics to research on, and the prevention and treatment of, infectious disease.  This builds on three years of work of an exploratory Center of Excellence in ELSI Research (CEER) at the Berman Institute, the first such project to focus attention on genomic ELSI issues in the context of infectious disease.


The new grant establishes the Johns Hopkins program as a Specialized CEER, with over $4 million in funding over four years. Only seven other such centers have been established across the country. The CEER brings together a multidisciplinary team from across Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine, led by co-principal investigators Gail Geller, ScD, MHS and Jeffrey Kahn, PhD, MPH of the Berman Institute.


Infectious diseases account for a significant proportion of illness and death worldwide. “Recent research has suggested that a person’s genes can play a significant role in the susceptibility to infection, its severity and transmissibility, and the response to treatment,” Geller notes.


“The promise of applying genomic information to the prevention and treatment of disease is driving the NIH’s Precision Medicine Initiative, and there are important benefits to be realized in the application of the tools of precision medicine to infectious disease, but also unique ethical, legal, and policy issues,” Kahn says.


The Johns Hopkins CEER team members include experts in genomics, immunology and infectious disease, bioethics, epidemiology, public health preparedness, education, and health policy, in keeping with the intention that CEERs create opportunities for transdisciplinary research.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.