Biobanks sponsored by an array of institutions are starting to expand the scope of their health and genetic research. Each biobank holds a collection of human biological materials, including the DNA. These samples are cryogenically stored in the bank.
The goal of the institution’s in holding this DNA material is to run a detailed research projects that could assist modern science differentiate between those impact of biology and environment on human health. Some of the biobanks in the world are in fact owned by national governments.
Countries that currently have these sorts of genetic repositories are Iceland, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Canada. The earliest national program was set up in Iceland in 1996 and is owned by the government. The government has contracted with a private company, deCODE Genetics, to operate and develop the bank’s potential.
Since Iceland has been a national pioneer in the sphere of DNA storage and testing, it has been able to explore some of the major legal challenges that biobanks present. One basic issue to resolve is the ownership of the DNA stored. According to Icelandic law, the biological materials in the bank are still legally owned by their donors. However, the government has been given the custodial rights.
In other countries, like Estonia, the government actually has ownership of the biological samples being held in its biobank. It does also, however, have a strong framework of laws designed to offer strong protection of the interests and rights of the donors.
Beyond deciding who owns the DNA samples, the laws also have to sort out what can a biobank legally do with the materials. In some countries, once the material is donated, it can be used for almost all testing the biobank owners wants to run on it. In other cases, like in Iceland, donors can opt out of additional testing beyond the purpose for which they first donated their DNA. A biobanks become more active, nation’s will likely continue to develop the laws that govern their operations.
Author: Sam JonesThis author has published 4 articles so far.