Race and ancestry in biomedical research: Exploring the challenges

Timothy Caulfield, Stephanie M. Fullerton, Sarah E. Ali-Khan, Laura Arbour, Esteban G. Burchard, Richard S. Cooper, Billie Jo Hardy, Simrat Harry, Robyn Hyde-Lay, Jonathan Kahn, Rick Kittles, Barbara A. Koenig, Sandra S.J. Lee, Michael Malinowski, Vardit Ravitsky, Pamela Sankar, Stephen W. Scherer, Béatrice Séguin, Darren Shickle, Guilherme Suarez-KurtzAbdallah S. Daar

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

109 Scopus citations


The use of race in biomedical research has, for decades, been a source of social controversy. However, recent events, such as the adoption of racially targeted pharmaceuticals, have raised the profile of the race issue. In addition, we are entering an era in which genomic research is increasingly focused on the nature and extent of human genetic variation, often examined by population, which leads to heightened potential for misunderstandings or misuse of terms concerning genetic variation and race. Here, we draw together the perspectives of participants in a recent interdisciplinary workshop on ancestry and health in medicine in order to explore the use of race in research issue from the vantage point of a variety of disciplines. We review the nature of the race controversy in the context of biomedical research and highlight several challenges to policy action, including restrictions resulting from commercial or regulatory considerations, the difficulty in presenting precise terminology in the media, and drifting or ambiguous definitions of key terms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbergm8
JournalGenome Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 21 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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