Paris, 3 November 2006
Scientists have known for years that complex diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, arise from a combination of lifestyle, environmental, genetic and random factors. Large-scale study of populations may contribute significantly to science's understanding of the complex multi-factorial basis of disease and to improvements in prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and cure. As a result of developments in biotechnology and bioinformatics, the opportunity to store and analyse increasingly large amounts of genetic data have rendered possible the creation of large-scale population databases. Genetic research, involving the use of such databases containing human genetic and genomic data, information, and biological samples, is thus becoming increasingly feasible.
More recently, the databases being developed include data, information and biological samples from whole populations. Large-scale population databases which contain a significantly broader range of information about individuals also raise a number of issues and concerns. While some of these are not new, the increasing breadth and scope of such databases amplifies them. Moreover, the combination of a broader set of genetic data and personal information in these databases raises new issues about the use of such information, especially in a non-clinical or non-research context. In addition, as such databases will increasingly be international in scope, and cover populations from numerous jurisdictions, new sets of questions will arise.
The OECD organised a workshop in order to begin the process of considering, at the international level, policy challenges associated with the establishment, management and governance of human genetic research databases. This report provides an overview of the complex issues that were discussed at that workshop and which need to be considered or addressed, in recognition of the significant contribution that human genetic research databases could play in translating scientific advances into innovation in health.
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