pointed out that most predictions take the form of probabilities, which do not tell a patient or physician exactly what to do, and proper decisions will be more likely if all parties involved understand the role of probabilities in decision making.

Insel proposed a promising way to involve the public in the biomedical enterprise and inform them about its results. He suggested that every patient should become a partner in a research program addressing the condition affecting that patient. This has already happened in some areas, such as cystic fibrosis and particular kinds of childhood cancer. It could occur as well for much broader groups, such as everyone with cardiovascular disease.

Califf responded by saying that one of the most encouraging aspects of establishing the David Murdock Research Institute is that the organizers have been overwhelmed by calls from people in the surrounding region who want to be enrolled in epidemiological studies. Involving these volunteers in research will take careful planning, but they represent a largely untapped resource that could speed the pace of scientific progress.


Iyengar, R. 2008. Systems biology of biomarker sets. Speaker presentation at the Institute of Medicine Workshop on Assessing and Accelerating Development of Biomarkers for Drug Safety, October 24, Washington, DC.

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