Genomics and Society program at The Jackson Laboratory June 5-7

From prenatal genetic screening to the genetic testing of women with family histories of breast cancer, genomics is rapidly becoming a fixture in our lives. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has, since its founding, sponsored research into the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of genomics to understand the profound societal and personal effects of technological advances in genomics.

Genomics and Society: Expanding the ELSI Universe, a three-day conference on the myriad issues that spring from the ethical, legal and social implications of genomic research, will be hosted on June 5 - 7, 2017 by The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine and UConn Health in Farmington, Connecticut. The conference is funded by NHGRI through a grant to Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC).

The latest research on ELSI topics will be presented by physicians, geneticists, genetic counselors, social scientists and lawyers, in academia, government and industry from around the world. From renowned researchers at the top of their fields to students and early career scientists bringing new insight and perspectives, the depth and range of expertise at the conference promise fascinating debates over new and emerging data.

Keynote speaker Eric Dishman, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Precision Medicine Initiative’s All of Us Research Program will kick off the meeting with a discussion of the need for continuous innovation to address the quickly evolving genomic landscape. Other featured speakers include:

  • Pearl O’Rourke from Harvard Medical School on the ethical, legal and social implications of the All of Us initiative;
  • James Evans, Professor of Genomics and Medicine at the University of North Carolina on the ethics of genomic medicine in the clinical setting;
  • Alondra Nelson, Dean of Social Science at Columbia University on genes, ancestry and identity;
  • Wylie Burke, Professor of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington on the rapid reinvention of ELSI in our evolving healthcare world.

The full program presents new research in more than 150 expert panel discussions, individual paper and poster presentations, and workshops on topics ranging from the implications of genetic testing in the criminal justice system to the uses and potential misuses of CRISPR – the very latest in genetic manipulation. 

“We are honored to play a part in bringing together world-renowned experts to discuss the most pressing issues at the crossroads of genomics and ethics,” says Dr. Charles Lee, Ph.D., FACMG, Scientific Director of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine. “As our society rapidly embraces precision medicine, we have an obligation to provide both ethical and scientific guidance to researchers in the lab, clinicians on the front lines, and patients making important decisions about their health.”

“The increase in genomic testing and technology are fueling breakthrough discoveries here in Connecticut and around the globe for heart disease, cancer and a host of rare diseases,” says Dr. Bruce T. Liang, Dean of UConn School of Medicine. “However, these promising personalized medicine therapies and our greater genetic knowledge may also come with a steep societal price if we don’t address the associated concerns in a timely fashion.”

“NHGRI has been the major funder of ELSI research since the beginning of the Human Genome Project,” said Lawrence Brody, Ph.D., NHGRI’s Director of the Division of Genomics and Society. “Our aim is to support research that anticipates and addresses the societal impact of genomic science.   

“NHGRI has also played a major role in bringing the results of ELSI research into the public forum,” noted Dr. Paul Appelbaum, professor at CUMC and director of the Columbia University Center for Research on the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic and Behavioral Genetics. “As genomic technology expands by leaps and bounds, new ethical issues of consent, of commercialization, of justice and access to genomic medicine confound scientists and the public alike.  ELSI research is seeking evidence-based answers to these novel questions. This conference aims to share the latest ELSI research as widely as possible.”

For more information, visit the ELSI Congress website at:
Follow #ELSICON for news updates before and during the conference.

The conference is funded by NHGRI P50 HG007257 04S1

UConn Health is Connecticut’s only public academic medical center. Based on a 206-acre campus in Farmington, UConn Health has a three-part mission: research, teaching and patient care. Home to the UConn School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine and UConn John Dempsey Hospital with over 5,500 employees supporting nearly 1,000 students, over 600,000 annual patient visits, and innovative scientific research contributing to the advancement of medicine. For more information, visit

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs 1,800 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health. For more information, please visit

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. The campus that Columbia University Medical Center shares with its hospital partner, NewYork-Presbyterian, is now called the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.  For more information, visit or

The National Human Genome Research Institute's (NHGRI) Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) Research Program was established in 1990 as an integral part of the Human Genome Project (HGP) to foster basic and applied research on the ethical, legal and social implications of genetic and genomic research for individuals, families and communities. The ELSI Research Program funds and manages studies, and supports workshops, research consortia and policy conferences related to these topics.