When the federal Office for Protection from Research Risks (OPRR) ordered Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to halt all human subject research in January, it was another punitive measure in that agency's 14-month-long series of actions that sent a clear message to the research community: Researchers spending federal tax dollars should diligently consider ethics in their work.

This particular case, however, especially troubled genetics researchers. It involved the father of a research participant who complained to federal officials that a VCU genetics study asking his daughter questions about her family history was an invasion of his family's privacy. Following an investigation of the university's institutional review board (IRB), OPRR and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suspended VCU's human subject research, citing administrative reasons.

The suspension didn't last long--the university's studies were reinstated by the end of the month. But the issue has raised hairs on the necks of uneasy genetics...

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