Faculty Scholars Program

Jessica L. Roberts, JD

Class of 2018
  • Leonard Childs Professor of Law
  • Director, Health Law & Policy Institute
  • Professor of Medicine (courtesy appointment)
University of Houston Law Center
Scholar Project

Jessica L. Roberts is the Director of the Health Law & Policy Institute and the Leonard Childs Professor in Law, who specializes in genetics and the law, health law, and disability law. Her research operates at the intersection of health law, ethics, and social justice. Her scholarship has appeared in the Yale Law Journal, Northwestern Law Review, Michigan Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review (twice), University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, the American Journal of Bioethics, Nature Biotechnology (twice), and JAMA Internal Medicine, among others. Cambridge University Press published her book on “healthism,” co-authored with Elizabeth Weeks Leonard, in 2018. Her recent scholarship focuses on people’s legal interests in their genetic data. Professor Roberts has received funding from the Greenwall Foundation and the National Institutes of Health for her work on the legal implications of genetic technology.

A noted expert on diverse issues of health law, Professor Roberts has been interviewed by several leading media outlets, including U.S. News, the New York Times (twice), the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, National Public Radio, and BBC World Service. Professor Roberts has received the university-wide Teaching Excellence Award and the Provost’s Certificate of Excellence. She was named a 2018 Greenwall Faculty Scholar in Bioethics and is a Health Policy Scholar with Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Medical Ethics & Health Policy. Professor Roberts teaches, or has taught, Genetics & the Law, Disabilities & the Law, Contracts, and Health Law.

For more information, visit: https://www.law.uh.edu/faculty/main.asp?PID=4797

Genetic Property & Personhood: The Role of Ownership in Genetic Research

Grant Cycle: 2014-2015

Who should own genetic and genomic data? Despite the common intuition that a person’s unique genetic profile belongs to her, traditionally, members of the biotechnology industry have had exclusive ownership over the genetic and genomic information they accumulate. Regardless of the status of the laws and regulations, individuals continue to express the sense that their DNA is their own and that they should enjoy certain ongoing rights in their genetic and genomic data, including commercial interests. This asymmetry of rights has led to highly publicized feelings of exploitation, such as the story of Henrietta Lacks. Prof. Roberts’s project revisits issues of genetic and genomic ownership in light of recent social, scientific, legal, and regulatory developments. Given the changing landscapes of both law and science, now is a crucial time to reevaluate how we allocate ownership interests in genetic and genomic information. Prof. Roberts’s project seeks to help strike the proper balance between the interests of genetic and genomic data holders and the contributors of DNA.


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