Emory Report
November 3, 2008
Volume 61, Number 10



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November 3
, 2008
Commission to review research policies

By ron sauder

President Jim Wagner has appointed an advisory commission to review Emory’s management of potential conflicts of interest by faculty and staff members engaged in research and other professional activities. Paul Root Wolpe, director of Emory’s Center for Ethics and a nationally recognized authority on biomedical research ethics, will chair the group.

In charging the President’s Advisory Commission on Research Integrity and Professional Conflict Management, Wagner instructed it to “evaluate the completeness and appropriateness of our policies, the effectiveness of our practices, and the mettle of our culture concerning financial and professional conflicts of interest.”

His charge to the commission noted that corporate funding for university research “represents an important source of private funding serving a public good.”

“Allowing for appropriate support and for flexibility in relationships outside the University, however, places a special responsibility on the University. We must sustain strong policies, practices, and a culture geared toward eliminating the possibility that individuals, wittingly or unwittingly, might compromise or bias scholarly contributions, research findings, patient care, teaching, mentoring, and by extension the University’s reputation,” he said.

Wagner did not give the commission a specific deadline but asked it to work “diligently and briskly” on its assigned task of making an advisory report, along with concrete recommendations for improvement.

Wolpe, Asa Griggs Candler professor of bioethics, is a past president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, the national professional organization for scholars in bioethics and the medical humanities, and is co-editor of the American Journal of Bioethics. He also serves as the first chief of bioethics for NASA.
A longtime faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania before coming

to Emory earlier this year, Wolpe served as principal investigator in an internal audit of human subjects protections after the tragic death of teenager Jesse Gelsinger in a gene therapy trial.

Other commission members will be Dennis Choi, associate vice president and executive director of the Comprehensive Neurosciences Initiative; Max Cooper, an immunologist in the School of Medicine and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar; Consuelo Kertz, professor of accounting, Goizueta Business School; Christian P. Larsen, professor of surgery and director of the Emory Transplant Center; Polly J. Price, associate dean of faculty and professor of law; John Stuhr, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy; Kathy Griendling Taylor, professor of cardiology; Elaine Walker, Dobbs Professor of Psychology; and Carl Washington, professor of dermatology.

Serving as staff to the commission will be Michael M.E. Johns, chancellor of the University; Steve Sencer, deputy general counsel; and David Wynes, vice president for research administration. Anita Bray of the chancellor’s office will be project coordinator.

The creation of the commission follows recent media attention to the work of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who has raised questions about possible conflicts of interest between academic medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies, including Emory psychiatry professor Charles Nemeroff.