Our Mission

The Cordell Institute’s mission is to pioneer an ethical data-driven future, promote health and protect people.

Protecting People.  Leading the Future of Healthcare.

In 2015, at the dawn of the Era of Precision Medicine, two leaders of the Schools of Law and Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis recognized an opportunity to build something unique—a first-of-its-kind collaboration combining world-leading expertise in the science of human genomics and legal expertise in privacy and ethical management of human information to guide the timely and ethically responsible emergence of data-driven healthcare.

Nancy Staudt, Howard & Caroline Cayne Distinguished Professor and Dean of the Law School, and Timothy Eberlein, Spencer T. & Ann Olin Distinguished Professor and Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the School of Medicine, co-authored a proposal to establish a new WU institute that would be grounded in four founding principles:

Founding Principles

Ethics of Human Information

Solving emerging legal and policy issues around the challenges of complex human information, particularly with respect to genomic medicine and other human data-driven health technologies.

Focus on Individuals

Maintaining a focus on the individuals of our society, empowering patients, families, and communities to understand and utilize their information for their benefit.

Trusted Resource

Serving as a trusted and accessible resource for the medical and legal professions, legislators, the judiciary, and the public in the areas of human information and healthcare policy.

Training Experts

Training and inspiring the next generation of medical-legal scholars to build upon a tradition of excellence at Washington University, and to provide continuing leadership at the nexus of medicine and law.


The Leadership Team

To guide their new institute, Dean Staudt and Dr. Eberlein turned to accomplished faculty in their respective schools who shared a vision for charting a path for sensible, ethical, evidence-based policies that garner as many of the benefits of human information technologies as possible while minimizing their dangers.

From the School of Law, Neil Richards, the Thomas & Karole Green Professor of Law, is an internationally renowned expert in privacy law, information law, civil liberties and freedom of expression.

Jonathan Heusel, Professor of Pathology and of Genetics at the School of Medicine, is an expert in molecular medicine and the development of clinical diagnostics who also directs Clinical and Translational Genomics for the Department of Pathology & Immunology.

Building Partnerships

The new Joseph and Yvonne Cordell Institute of Policy in Medicine & Law (Cordell Institute) Directors hosted an inaugural Planning Symposium in September 2017 as a means to focus the early work of the Cordell Institute in areas of greatest immediate need, and to build partnerships within Washington University and with outside groups working in parallel on these problems with a view toward global solutions. Internally, the Cordell Institutes’s founding partnership is with the Siteman Cancer Center, for which Dr. Eberlein serves as Director, representing a clinical area where genomic medicine is already a major healthcare tool in the diagnosis and management of cancer patients and their families.

Other Washington University partners include the Institute for Informatics, directed by Philip Payne, who also is one of the Cordell Institutes’s Senior Fellows, and the McDonnell Genome Institute, a global leader in genomics research and whose pioneering investigators have demonstrated the utility of genome-scale DNA sequencing in understanding the genetic blueprint of a number of cancer types and contributing valuable genomics analysis tools and databases along the way. These partnerships will facilitate the emergence of Precision Medicine at Washington University and the Barnes-Jewish Hospital system, since this will require harmonization of large human genomic data sets, new informatics modules to assist in the integration and analysis of genomic and other healthcare data, and the ability to rapidly share this sensitive information efficiently and securely across multiple hospitals and clinics, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

With this global perspective, the Cordell Institute also is forging partnerships that will allow their research and policy solutions to be tested across the world. Initially, the Cordell Institute will be working with the Precisional Medicine Project of the World Economic Forum’s Center for the 4th Industrial Revolution and a major global technology company to develop robust policies governing cross-border data flows involving countries in Europe and Africa. We will seek additional corporate partners with aligned altruistic vision to reduce the bureaucratic friction of sharing important information as rapidly and securely as possible, with the benefit and privacy of patients and their families as the highest priority.


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