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ESRC Future Research Leaders award for Dr Felicity Boardman

Felicity BoardmanThe Economic and Social Reasearch Council (ESRC) has awarded Dr Felicity Boardman its coveted Future Research Leaders funding stream for her project 'Selecting Futures: The Social and Ethical Implications of Genetic Screening'.

This award was introduced in 2011 by the ESRC in replacement of its previous post-doc fellowships and small grants awards, making it a highly competitive funding stream. Institutions were advised to put their best candidates forward. Warwick’s internal screening committee selected Dr Felicity Boardman in September 2011.

Selecting Futures: The Social and Ethical Implications of Genetic Screening

Dr Boardman’s project focuses on how developments in genetic medicine over the past 50 years have had a great impact on the decisions to be made by prospective parents.

In coming years, these decisions appear set to increase as the UK government considers the introduction of pre-conception and prenatal genetic screening to test prospective parents or pregnant women for their carrier status in
relation to different genetic diseases.

Dr Boardman’s research programme centres on families living with spinal muscular atrophy. This condition could be tested for if genetic screening was introduced. It is a neuromuscular condition causing varying degrees of muscle weakness. One in 40 people in the general population are estimated to be carriers of spinal muscular atrophy and there is no known cure or effective treatment.

The findings of the research will facilitate an understanding of the social and ethical issues associated with screening for conditions for which the prognosis is uncertain.

In January 2012, I was invited to submit a full proposal. I knew at this point that it was very competitive: the ESRC said they had been inundated with applications. I submitted a full proposal in March 2012 and found out I had been successful in July 2012. I am very excited to be starting the award this month as I was on maternity leave when I found out my project had been funded!”

Dr Boardman’s mentors are Professor Frances Griffiths and Professor Gillian Hundt.