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As an investigator in UNC’s Center for Genomics and Society, Dr. Cadigan studies the ethical, legal, social, and policy implications of translating genomic research into clinical care. She has designed and conducted multimethod projects involving surveys and interviews with participants and investigators of genetic research studies about issues such as return of individual research results, ownership of biospecimens, and biobanking.  With Eric Juengst, she currently leads a study on ethical and governance challenges of human genome editing research.

Dr. Cadigan and a multidisciplinary team of researchers from across the country, were recently awarded a R01 grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH entitled, “Beyond the Medical: The ELSI of Polygenic Scores for Social Traits.” The co-Principal Investigator is Anya Prince, Professor of Law at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA. Additional members of the research team come from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, George Washington University, and the Mayo Clinic. The 4-year grant totals over $2.7 million in funding. 

In the emerging field of sociogenomics, scientific researchers are exploring the connectivity of nature versus nurture—investigating how one’s genes may play a role in determining social social attributes and behaviors. Prince and Cadigan’s project will focus on the increasing development in sociogenomics of polygenic scores (PGS) that may predict complex behaviors and traits, like reproductive behavior, educational attainment, and income. The development of these scores has the promise to improve genetic and social science research, but it can also exacerbate social inequities and disparities if not implemented carefully. Cadigan, Prince, and the team will examine how these scores are being utilized and ascertain the ethical, legal, and social impacts (ELSI) of their use.