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News Release

For immediate use

Sept. 7, 2006 -- No. 408

UNC presents community conference
on genetics and human values

CHAPEL HILL - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will host a community genetics forum aimed at engaging the public in discussions about advances in genetics research and promoting community conversations about scientific, health and ethical issues in genetics.

On Sept. 15, a scholarly conference, "Finding the Genome: Group Interests in Genetic Research and Testing," will be held from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the Medical Biomolecular Research Building on the UNC campus.

On Sept. 16, a community conference will be held from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. The community conference is titled "The Human Genome and Being Human: A Community Conversation on Our DNA, Health, Values and Heritage." Community members will have the opportunity to share their ideas, thoughts and concerns with National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy makers and community leaders at a town hall meeting. Lunch will be provided and community members and speakers will have the opportunity to network.

Both the scholarly and community conferences are free and open to the public. Each features three nationally-recognized speakers on genetics and society: Dr. Francis Collins, UNC alumnus and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Md.; Dr. Dena Davis, professor of law at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland, Ohio, whose research addresses genetic information and communal narratives; and Debra Harry, executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, a service-based organization that provides community education and outreach on issues related to genetics and biotechnology.

"This is an opportunity to listen to the questions, concerns, and opinions about genetic research from communities across North Carolina," Collins said. "We hope this forum will open up dialogue between many different communities, including scientists, community representatives, policy makers, educators, students and many others. This dialogue is essential for genomic research to realize its potential."

Also on the 16th, participants may also attend small group sessions led by scientists and scholars from UNC, Duke and the Genome Research Institute to discuss a number of topics including: DNA and Health: the Role of Biomedical Research; Genetics, Heart Disease, Diabetes and Cancer; Forensics & DNA; Privacy & DNA: Who should and can know your private DNA information; and Genetics, Behavior & Ethics: What do genes have to do with your personality? Also scheduled are DNA extraction demonstrations for children and adults. The day will close with a brief "next steps" general discussion.

Other activities include a Sept. 14 policy roundtable at the UNC Institute for Arts and Humanities Chapel Hill, where North Carolina legislators, leaders and policymakers will meet with scientists and scholars to discuss the state's policies regarding DNA banking and genetic nondiscrimination. On Sept. 15, the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange will present "Ferocious Beauty Genome" at the Reynolds Theater in Duke's Bryan Center; Dr. Collins will join a post-performance discussion.

The entire program, "Finding the Genome: Community Genetics Forum 2006," is sponsored by the Genome Research Institute, part of the NIH, UNC's department of social medicine in the School of Medicine and the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. The Parr Center for Ethics at UNC and the Center for the Study of Medical Ethics and Humanities at Duke have provided additional support.

This is the second Community Genetics Forum sponsored by the Genome Research Institute. The first forum was held in 2005 in Seattle, Wash., hosted by the University of Washington. The annual forum will be held in a different part of the country each year.

To learn more about Community Genetics Forum events, click on:

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Primary contacts: Barbra Rothschild, (919) 622-2142; Kristin Meyer, (919) 966-3024; Nancy King, (919) 843-8270. Contact Rothschild for more information about the policy roundtable and Dr. Collins' press availability.
School of Medicine contact: Les Lang, (919) 843-9687,