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ng a new one.Since the Human Genome Project, the costs of conducting genome wide association studies (GWAS) have dropped dramatically and numbers of studies using such techniques are increasingly rapidly. While many of the initial studies were conducted in Europe and North America, GWAS are increasingly being used in lower and middle income settings to identify mechanisms of susceptibility or resistance to a wide range of diseases and conditions. Consequently, ethics committees around the world are increasingly being asked to review GWAS or research that includes a genomic component.
Genomic research has some important differences from intervention trials which have implications for how the ethics of such studies are considered. Genomic research frequently poses minimal physical risk as DNA from sources such as blood and saliva are sampled and there is little likelihood of direct benefits to participants. GWAS generate very large datasets from large numbers of individuals. Care is needed to determine how to manage such datasets to preserve confidentiality while maximising their value. Genomic datasets may often be relevant to a number of research questions and funders frequently require that they be released to secondary researchers for further study.
Ethical issues committees may need to review a range of ethical issues in genomic research, from how consent should best be sought for GWAS (given the complicated methodologies used and that unknown future research that may be conducted with the genomic data) to how genomic data and DNA samples should be appropriately managed and governed over time. In response to requests for resources from ethics committees being asked to review genomic protocols we are delighted to announce that Global Health Reviewers has just launched its first specialist online training course in research ethics, entitled Introduction to Reviewing Genomic Research. Please let us know what you think of it. Further resources about reviewing genomic research can also found Here.
In early 2013 we are planning to release further free online courses - including an advanced course on research ethics and additional specialist courses on conducting GCP inspections and reviewing social science research. Please let us know of other specialist topics in research ethics that you would like to see covered in courses or in our Topics Pages.