Associate professor of law’s research explores the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomic testing
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Anya Prince is an associate professor of law and member of the University of Iowa Genetics Cluster. Her teaching and research interests explore the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomic testing, with particular focus on genetic discrimination and privacy rights, the intersection of clinical and research ethics, and insurance coverage of genetic technologies and interventions. Prince joined the UI in August 2017, knowing the opportunity to work with others in the Genetics Cluster would be a great benefit to her legal research and teaching.

Anya Prince

Associate Professor of Law, 
UI Genetics Cluster Initiative

At the UI since
August 2017

South Pasadena/Los Angeles

Alma Maters
BA, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), 2004;
MPP, Georgetown University, 2010;
JD, Georgetown University, 2010

What did you do before joining Iowa Law?

In law school, I took a class in genetics and society and fell in love with it. Since then, I have done everything I could to work in this field. I worked for a nonprofit called the Cancer Legal Resource Center directly after law school, where I got to work with clients who were either fearful of genetic discrimination or experienced genetic discrimination. During my fellowship there, I helped them with insurance appeals and education.

Then I moved into the research realm and worked on research at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine looking at whether or not we should screen healthy adults for preventive genetic conditions as a public health measure.

I’ve always taught here and there, and I knew I loved that, so I wanted to find a place where I could do both research and teaching and ended up at Iowa.

What courses do you teach?

I’m teaching Insurance Law this semester and Genetics and the Law in the spring.

What does your scholarship entail?

I actually have a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, which I’m about halfway through, and it looks at how life, long-term care, and disability insurers use genetic information. My research specialty has focused on U.S. standards of actuarial justification where insurance companies have to show that the risk factors they use are correlated to increased costs to insurers. So, I look at how genetic information fits into this scheme and whether regulation is sufficient or needs to be updated given this new technology.

Why did you decide to join the legal profession?

I like to say it’s in my genes. My mom was a teacher and my dad was a professor, so I grew up appreciating both the academic and intellectual side of that. I also had the joy of being able to get to know my parents’ students as I was growing up. The legal academy is a space where you have the freedom to do research on cutting-edge topics, but also include students in those projects and teach the next generation of lawyers and health scholars.

The UI Genetics Cluster initiative

Genetics, both as a basic science and in clinical practice, plays a critical and highly visible role in advancing personalized medicine and public health. Genetics will be the basis of future research unraveling the connections between our DNA sequences and our risks for clinical disease and will provide a national basis for prevention, intervention and cure.

Genetics transcends departments, colleges, and disciplines and generates both needs and services in the basic sciences, health care, bioethics, law, bioinformatics, and communications.

Find out more about the UI Genetics Cluster initiative.

What do you enjoy most about working in a higher education/law school setting?

The University of Iowa has a genetics cluster, which is a cross-disciplinary group of researchers across campus who are all working on some aspect of genetics. The UI is really one of the best places that I can do my legal research because of that community, but it also translates really well into teaching. For example, in my Genetics and the Law class, we will have guest speakers from the UI Genetics Cluster talk to us about their work and learn how we can regulate these new technologies.

What makes you passionate about your work?

I think what makes me passionate about the genetics side of my work is I have no idea what I am going to be researching in five years because technology is improving and changing so rapidly, but I know it’s going to be interesting and raise huge legal and ethical issues.

From the teaching side, it’s really fun to be able to challenge baseline legal principles through new technologies. In my insurance law class, the students are working on projects where they are looking at how insurers use big data and genetic information. So, in classes like that, we can examine cutting-edge issues with new technology and learn more about the basics of the law through that investigation.

What are your impressions of Iowa City so far?

It’s been extremely welcoming. As a California girl, I’m not sure how winter will go, but with all the bike trails in our area and places to kayak, like out at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, it’s been really fun to have that mix of city and countryside.

If you could get rid of one invention in the world, what would you choose? Why?

I would get rid of some of the super-specific kitchen gadgets that only have one purpose.

What’s your favorite book?

My favorite book is Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman.

Name five of your favorite things.

  • Rock climbing
  • Board games
  • Podcasts
  • Travel—my favorite spot is Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Bread