ASU experts grapple with gene-based medicine questions on PBS


March 26, 2012

Sooner than we think, we will have access to our own genetic codes. Are we ready to join the DNA generation?

Two ASU researchers, Gary Marchant and George Poste, will tackle legal and ethical dilemmas surrounding personalized medicine on “Arizona Horizon” at 5:30 p.m., March 28, on Eight, Arizona PBS. That same evening, Eight will premiere the new NOVA program “Cracking Your Genetic Code” at 8 p.m. Download Full Image

Marchant is a geneticist, law professor and leading scholar on issues of law and policy and their intersection with science and technological innovations. Named a 2011 ASU Regents’ Professor, he teaches at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and is faculty director of its Center for Law, Science & Innovation (LSI). Marchant and Rachel Lindor, a research director of LSI, recently co-authored “The Doctor Will See Your Genome Now: Will whole-genome sequencing create a new liability tsunami for physicians?” for Slate.

At NOVA’s request, Marchant and Lindor also wrote an essay on the intersection of personalized medicine and law, titled “Top Ten Policy, Ethical and Legal Issues with Genetic Information,” and can be accessed on the PBS show’s blog Inside NOVA.

Poste is chief scientist and co-director of ASU’s Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative (CASI) and Del E. Webb Professor of Health Innovation. From 2003 to 2009, he directed and built the Biodesign Institute at ASU. Poste serves on the board of directors for Monsanto, Exelixis and Caris Life Sciences. He formerly was chief science and technology officer and president, R&D, of SmithKline Beecham and led teams that successfully developed 31 new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines. He also is the recipient of major academic and industry honors.

As the NOVA episode reveals, access to our personal genetic codes positions us at the brink of a medical revolution. The public television production profiles cancer patients returned to robust health and a cystic fibrosis sufferer breathing easily because scientists could pinpoint and neutralize genetic abnormalities underlying their conditions. The hour-long show also raises a range of ethical questions.

On “Arizona Horizon,” ASU’s Marchant and Poste will address the impact of new genetic technologies and ethical and technical challenges posed by this new medical reality. Will it help or hurt us to be warned we are likely to incur a serious disease? What if such information falls into the hands of insurance companies, employers, prospective mates? Should parents be allowed to select embryos having specific traits? Will doctors become liable for what they didn’t know about a patient’s whole-genome sequence?

Joining them on “Arizona Horizon” will be Stephanie Buchholtz, director of the Office of Research Compliance & Quality Management at The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). Buchholtz is responsible for ensuring that all TGen research activities are compliant with federal, state and local regulations. A doctorate student in ASU’s Biology and Society program – in the School of Life Sciences, within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – her research interests include the ethical, legal and social implications regarding the disclosure of research results to study participants.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

Pat's Run across country: 'Shadow Runs' grow in popularity


March 27, 2012

While thousands of runners are taking part in Pat’s Run in Tempe, smaller “Shadow Runs” are held throughout the country to honor the life and legacy of Pat Tillman.

Jen Bergmark, who graduated from ASU in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation, is instrumental in organizing the shadow run in Los Angeles every year where approximately 100 people meet at the Rose Bowl to run 4.2 miles in Tillman’s memory. Pat's Run Shadow Run in San Francisco Download Full Image

“Pat played at the Rose Bowl as a Sun Devil,” she said. 

Bergmark runs to honor Tillman’s legacy for a man who worked extremely hard to maintain a good grade-point average, graduate from ASU early and give up a promising football career to serve his country.

“He put his country before himself,” she said. “Pat was a great man. He was a real role model.”

Participation in the run grows each year, including among veterans such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America members who ran last year.

“I ran with a girl who was my age, who served in a war,” Bergmark said. “They’ve experienced what Pat experienced.  We’re looking forward to them coming again.”

Organizing the run and participating with other ASU alumni is always a fun experience. Bergmark utilizes her expertise as an event planner and owner of First Pick Planning to organize the run.

“It’s a good bonding experience,” Bergmark said. “It’s the ASU Los Angeles Alumni Chapter’s signature event for the year.”

This year’s initiatives among the ASU Los Angeles Alumni Chapter include participating in Operation Gratitude to write letters of appreciation to veterans.

North of Los Angeles in San Francisco is another run held in honor of Pat Tillman’s memory that brings ASU alumni together. Sean Pate, a 1997 ASU graduate in kinesiology, manages the San Francisco Pat’s Run Shadow Run that attracts about 100 people who run along the San Francisco Marina in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“We get many ASU alums and military folk who want to participate and build camaraderie,” said Pate, who works in the Bay area as a public relations director for ancestry.com.

Participants enjoy a relaxed event where they gather to run in Pat Tillman’s honor near where he grew up in San Jose, Calif.

“The runs are a great way to show support,” Pate said.

Tillman was a man of conviction who was cut from a different mold, he said. “I think the memory of Pat Tillman is what many people want to model their lives after,” Pate added.

Matt Cicinelli graduated from ASU in finance and economics in 2008. Now living in Washington, D.C., and working as a finance manager for Living Social, he started running in Pat’s Run in Tempe and was a Tillman Scholar during his years at the university.

During the time he served as a Tillman Scholar, Cicinelli worked with teams on community building projects such as Basketball Beyond the Barrios that focused on sports to build teamwork and positive relationships with peers. He also worked with a team that addressed childhood obesity.

Now he works to make the Washington, D.C., Shadow Run a success despite weather conditions that are typically more challenging than Arizona’s.

“Last year we had about 150 RSVPs, but we had a really bad weather day. We did a second one so people could come out,” he said.

Participants are hoping for good weather this year when they’ll run along the Potomac River to the Kennedy Center, back along the river and end at the Jefferson Memorial for a free jazz concert as part of the Cherry Blossom Festival taking place on April 21.

Cicinelli says he’s using this year’s shadow run as an excuse to return to running. A regular runner in the past, he ran the New York Marathon with Team Tillman in 2008.

“It was an amazing experience, running through all of bureaus and getting an interesting view of New York. You see all types of people running, like one guy in an Eiffel Tower costume.”

Running in the Shadow Run allows Cicinelli show his support for the Pat Tillman Foundation that supports veterans, their families and education.

“They’re able to directly impact the lives of veterans and their families,” he said.

Giving to others without thinking about oneself is one of the lessons Cicinelli takes from the life that Tillman led.

“It’s good to remember selfless acts,” he said. “No matter where you are or what your circumstances are, you always have the opportunity to do something for others.”