College Gets $590,000 Grant to Assess Legal Protections in Genomic Research

Georgia State University College of Law faculty members Leslie E. Wolf and Erin Fuse Brown and three graduate research assistants, Ryan Kerr (J.D./M.H.S.A. ’15), Genevieve Razick (J.D./M.H.S.A. ’15), and Greg Tanner (J.D./M.H.S.A. ’16), are conducting research to assess the legal protections afforded research participants in genomic research.

The College of Law will receive more than $590,000 during the grant’s three years to support the team’s work. This research is funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Wolf, professor of law, and Fuse Brown, assistant professor of law, are working with Duke University researchers, principal investigator Laura Beskow, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Kathleen Brelsford, Ph.D., to address questions about what risks genomic research poses for research participants, what protections are available, and how those protections should be conveyed to research participants. The Georgia State part of the grant is focused on the legal research.

“Most research consent forms have a statement along the lines that ‘your information will be kept confidential to the extent the law allows,’” Wolf said. “While this statement may reassure research participants who may share sensitive information with researchers, it’s not clear what it really means.”

The team’s task is to figure that out. They are studying the various layers of protections afforded by federal and state laws to see what protections are available, where there may be gaps, and what changes may be necessary.

“We hope to come up with better ways to describe the risks and legal protections to genomic research participants,” Fuse Brown said. “If there are gaps in existing protections, we need to shine a light on these areas for improvement.”