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NIH Record  
Vol. LXV, No. 18
  August 30, 2013
Lecture Launches New Natural Products Interest Group
Summer Poster Day Connects Current, Future Scientists
Nutrition Choices Could Aid in Treating Type 1 Diabetes
Li To Give Sayer Vision Research Lecture
NIH’ers Featured at ‘HHS Night at the Ballpark’
Bldg. 7 To Be Demolished, Along with Bldg. 9
Calling All Scientists for Education
Flu Immunizations for NIH Employees Start in September
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Offers Hope, Encouragement, Support
HHS Secretary Visits NIH, Addresses Town Meeting

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Masur Auditorium town meeting with NIH director Dr. Francis Collins

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Masur Auditorium town meeting with NIH director Dr. Francis Collins

When HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited NIH on Aug. 1, she brought messages of hope, encouragement and support—hope that progress-crippling budget cuts will end soon, encouragement that medical research is a top priority at the highest levels and support for ambitious science endeavors such as NCATS and the big data and BRAIN initiatives.

In a 2½-hour visit that included a stop at the Children’s Inn, a lab tour and a briefing with several institute directors, Sebelius ended the morning with a town meeting in Masur Auditorium.

“Sequestration is probably the dumbest economic policy I have ever seen in my entire life—let’s just start there,” she said, in answer to a question about whether current austere funding conditions should be considered the “new normal.” “Getting rid of sequestration—which is a multi-year noose around the neck of the government’s budget, so however bad it is this year, it gets worse. The noose is tightening and the targets are getting lower. Getting rid of that framework is the top priority for [the Office of Management and Budget], the top priority for the President, the top priority for this administration moving forward.”

Respect for Privacy
NIH Restricts Access to Henrietta Lacks’ Genomic Data

Last March, the scientific community—and later, by happenstance, the descendants of Henrietta Lacks, whose cervical cancer (HeLa) cells began growing in 1951 and have been crucial enough to science to have been cited in 74,000 research papers since then—learned that German researchers had published the first whole genome sequence of a HeLa cell line.

Once again, it seemed, Lacks’ gift to science was being exploited without either her consent (admittedly not required in 1951) or that of her surviving family members, whose trials were recounted in the best-selling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, published in 2010 by Rebecca Skloot.

Within days of the German paper’s appearance, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and NIH deputy director for science, outreach and policy Dr. Kathy Hudson were able to persuade the authors to remove the sequence from an open-access database until they could formulate a plan that would both honor the Lacks family’s privacy and also allow the scientific community to continue studies of the first-ever human cell line.