News » New Article Explores Role of Race Categories in Precision Medicine

New Article Explores Role of Race Categories in Precision Medicine

A new article from Shawneequa Callier, JD, associate professor of clinical research and leadership at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, addresses the role of racial categories in precision medicine research and describes policies to facilitate critical assessment of decisions on the use of racial categories in a precision medicine study. 

The article, published in the journal Ethnicity and Disease, focuses on concerns over the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) promotion of the use of racial and ethnic categories created by the U.S. Census Bureau in biomedical research contexts, especially if investigators rely on these categories even when they are not relevant to the research. It also argues that current race-based approaches carry risks related to the development of sound scientific research practices and questions.

Precision medicine provides investigators with the opportunity to capture human genomic diversity within and across populations that are often underrepresented in genomic research studies and that suffer severe racial health disparities, Callier explained in the article. 

“At this moment in the field of precision medicine, when researchers are engaging underrepresented communities and funders are developing new approaches to understanding health,” she said, “it is timely to carefully assess how race is operationalized in research, and how racial differences are described in both peer-reviewed publications and publicly accessible news articles.”

To make progress, said Callier, the field of precision medicine must confront researchers’ use of race as a biological category and the “often inaccurate, inconsistent, and poorly justified use of racial categories in biomedical research.”

The article recommends that funders of precision medicine research should continue to call upon scholars from diverse disciplines to address the challenges associated with categorizing participants in research.

“Any future recommendations should be informed by such deliberations, empirical research on how investigators approach diversity and inclusion in research, and lessons learned from engaging with diverse national and international communities,” Callier said.

To view the article, titled “The Use of Racial Categories in Precision Medicine” published in Ethnicity and Disease, visit www.ethndis.org/edonline/index.php/ethndis/article/view/1235.