College of Law




I research law and the biosciences, with an emphasis on cognitive and social neuroscience, genetics, and mental health.  My work often explores false dichotomies embedded in the law that are revealed by a more nuanced understanding of our biology. I enjoy incorporating the psychology of stigma, blame, and agency into evidence, torts, and criminal law doctrine. In terms of methodology, I merge empirical, theoretical, and doctrinal approaches, and frequently draw upon my training in normative medical ethics.

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I serve as director of the College of Law’s Program on Intellectual Property and Technology Law. I have been involved in the area of genomics law and policy since the Human Genome Project, and have conducted a range of research related to intellectual property, technical standardization, antitrust law and science policy. I have served on the Advisory Council of the National Human Genome Research Institute, the National Institutes of Health Council of Councils, and advisory boards and committees of numerous other governmental agencies. I have testified and appeared before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, the Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission.

My forthcoming book, The Genome Defense (New York: Algonquin, 2021) details the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, which ended the practice of gene patenting in America.

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My research interests lie at the intersection of normative ethics, bioethics, and health law.  My primary current interests include disability and disability law, privacy especially with respect to health information, reproductive ethics, issues of justice in health care, and infectious disease and public health ethics. I am currently at work on a book titled States of Health: Federalism and Bioethics that will address the political, legal, and ethical questions raised by deep differences among states in a single polity not only about abortion but also with respect to many other issues, from access to health care and the availability of experimental therapies to protection against the spread of infectious disease.

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My research interests include health and human rights with a particular focus on the human right to health and the right to a clean and healthy environment. My scholarship centers on issues of equity and access. I am interested in reproductive health rights, genetic data and intellectual property, mental health, the social determinants of health, public health and environmental ethics, and risks to health related to racism. My current work considers corporate social responsibility and human rights. In my recent book Incorporating Rights: Strategies to Advance Corporate Accountability, I examine advocacy strategies used to increase access to essential medicines and offer examples of how pharmaceutical companies can impact the enjoyment of human rights.

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Genetics and Law
Professors Brown, Contreras, and Francis are engaged in ongoing research relating to genetics and the law, including collaborations with the University of Utah’s Center for Excellence in ELSI Research (UCEER). Recent genetics-related research by our faculty includes work relating to liability for genetic testing, gene patenting, genomic data sharing and public attitudes toward genetics
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Discrimination in Health Care
Professors Brown, Francis, and colleagues elsewhere in the University have been working together on a wide variety of projects involving access to health care, discrimination, and stigma. These include discrimination against the elderly and people with disabilities during COVID; disability discrimination, substance use disorder treatment, and participants in drug courts; and the use of direct to consumer polygenic risk scoring for suicidality.
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Access to Health and Innovation
Our faculty have been active in studying the legal structures that enable public access to healthcare innovations. For example, in 2020 Professor Contreras became one of the founders of the Open COVID Pledge, an open framework enabling the holders of intellectual property to commit their assets to the response to COVID-19 on a global, compensation-free basis. Other work in this area focuses on the use of international trade mechanisms and technical standards to increase access to lifesaving drugs and vaccines.
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