Neuroethics post doc selected to tackle Science Magazine ethical challenge in neuroscience

July 24, 2014

Dr. Nina Di Pietro was one of 15 young scientists chosen in July as a finalist in the NextGen Voices competition for her response to the following question: What is the most challenging ethical question facing young investigators in your field? How should it be addressed?

A post-doctoral fellow based at UBC with National Neuroethics Core, and a colleague of NeuroDevNet Neuroethics lead Dr. Judy Illes, Dr. Di Pietro has co-authored a number of studies and commentaries, recently publishing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on the increasing use of anti-psychotic medications to treat children and youth. Her NextGen Voices comment on challenges inherent in large-scale, multi-centre trials appeared online July 4 on the Science website.

"Large-scale, multi-center clinical trials are the way of the future for young investigators wishing to address complex questions related to brain development and to discover safe and effective interventions for kids living with neurodevelopmental disability. Rapid advancements in neuroimaging technologies and whole-genome sequencing have led to significant progress in this area and are commonly used in pediatric clinical trial research. Along with new technologies and research collaborations, however, come large data sets, colloquially referred to as ‘Big Data’. Applying Big Data strategies can optimize innovation, improve the efficiency of research and clinical trials, and lead to advances in personalized medicine that could improve the lives of children with complex health needs. Hence, young investigators are increasingly motivated to capitalize on Big Data. However, important ethical challenges must be addressed before the power of Big Data can be harnessed to its fullest potential. For instance, how do we achieve consensus among researchers, pharmaceutical industry representatives, regulatory agencies, research ethics boards, and family advocates on best ethical practices for conducting large-scale multi-center clinical trials involving children and adolescents living with neurodevelopmental disability? What mechanisms need to be in place to ensure ethics harmonization and oversight? Work is currently being done to achieve this at both national and international levels. Young investigators need to be engaged in the harmonization process as they are on the front lines of data collection and analysis and are uniquely positioned to interface with actors at all levels: senior researchers, research staff, ethics boards, and research participants themselves."

Congratulations to Dr. Di Pietro!

View her commentary and other NextGen voices in pdf format