Changes Are Coming at NIH’s Genome Institute

If one were to anthropomorphize the NIH’s genome institute (no, I don’t know why you would, but humor me for a second), it would be a millennial, who at 29, was probably, finally, starting to get the hang of adulting.

So now what?

The institute, formally called the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, announced recently that it is undergoing a new round of strategic planning—a process it expects to finalize in October 2020—to determine how to expand the field of genomics to foster new medical breakthroughs.

It’s calling it a “2020 vision.” … I see what you did there, NHGRI … I see you.

“We are trying to write a clear vision for using genomics to advance human health and we’re using the process to guide our scientific priorities and to shape our research portfolio as well as foster new partnerships,” Cristina Kapustij, chief of policy and program analysis at the institute, said at the HL7 genomics conference I attended earlier this week.

Why are they doing this? When the NIH established the National Center for Human Genome Research in 1989 (it became the NHGRI in 1997), genomics was an emerging field. Now it’s embedded into every field of research from cancer to diabetes to vision loss.

“Everyone has a little piece of genomics,” said Kapustij, an evolution of research she described as fantastic and successful. “Now that genomics is so ubiquitous and it’s been incorporated into so many aspects, the institute has to re-evaluate what our role is in this space.”

The NHGRI is currently accepting comments online about the strategic plan and also will organize town halls across the country and hold events at scientific meetings to solicit input. And of course, there’s a hashtag: #Genomics2020.

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