Welcome to the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy!
As the human genome project has unfurled over the past almost twenty years, what the field of genomics brought us - now conveyed more broadly by the term "genome sciences" - has been an emphasis on global, comprehensive approaches to life. This global view encompasses a number of perspectives, beginning at the micro level of the genome sequence and moving up to include the transcriptome, the proteome, the metabolome and other 'omes', as well as cells, tissues, whole organisms and even entire populations.
Founded in 2003, the IGSP represents Duke's response to the dizzying array of developments that have emerged in the genome sciences. Thus, the IGSP's mission involves not only cutting-edge genome science, technology and their applications, but also the deliberate and thoughtful study of the impact of that science and technology on virtually every facet of human activity. It is for that reason that the IGSP promises to bring together - under one metaphorical roof - scientists, engineers, physicians, lawyers, policymakers, business leaders, economists, ethicists, humanists, and students all across the Duke campus and beyond."So many universities acknowledge a desire to build interdisciplinary scholarship; Duke is one that actually walks the walk."
This assembly of scholars and professionals from multiple disciplines is not exceptional at Duke. On the contrary, to a remarkable degree, that approach is the norm here. In fact, it is one of primary reasons why I chose to come to Duke to direct the Institute. Over the years, I have served in many capacities on a number of different campuses, but never have I been in a place where the artificial borders separating departments, programs, centers and schools are so transparent. So many universities acknowledge a desire to build interdisciplinary scholarship; Duke is one that actually walks the walk. For us, whose mission is to explore the scientific, ethical, legal, social and policy ramifications of the genome sciences, such unfettered access to our colleagues on campus - anywhere on campus - is both a blessing and a necessity.
My other motivation as director is a translational one. The human genome is no longer an abstraction; anyone with a computer and an Internet connection is at liberty to peruse our 3.2 billion bases. The question is: So now what? Integral to the IGSP's charge is consideration of the many answers to that question. We believe that the genome, particularly when viewed in its environmental context, represents a tremendous opportunity to improve the lot of humanity, especially by using genomic information to individualize health care. Of course, without addressing the policy and community aspects of personalized medicine, it will never become a reality. That is why I believe it is the "P" in IGSP that helps distinguish us from others in the field and will allow us to make a substantive impact. Without it, we cannot expect to employ the power of the genome to change the ways in which we view ourselves and the manner in which health care is administered in this country.
It is this approach - comprehensive, multidisciplinary and respectful of the human challenges that lie before us - that the IGSP embraces in its ongoing effort to bring the genome to life.
We invite you to join us.
Huntington F. Willard, PhD