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Genomic Sequencing Capacity, Data Retention, and Personal Access to Raw Data in Europe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Shaman Narayanasamy, Varvara Markina, Adrian Thorogood, Adriana Blazkova, Mahsa Shabani, Bartha M. Knoppers, Barbara Prainsack, Robert Koesters

Original languageEnglish
Article number303
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
Published6 May 2020

King's Authors


Whole genome/exome sequencing (WGS/WES) has become widely adopted in research and, more recently, in clinical settings. Many hope that the information obtained from the interpretation of these data will have medical benefits for patients and—in some cases—also their biological relatives. Because of the manifold possibilities to reuse genomic data, enabling sequenced individuals to access their own raw (uninterpreted) genomic data is a highly debated issue. This paper reports some of the first empirical findings on personal genome access policies and practices. We interviewed 39 respondents, working at 33 institutions in 21 countries across Europe. These sequencing institutions generate massive amounts of WGS/WES data and represent varying organisational structures and operational models. Taken together, in total, these institutions have sequenced ∼317,259 genomes and exomes to date. Most of the sequencing institutions reported that they are able to store raw genomic data in compliance with various national regulations, although there was a lack of standardisation of storage formats. Interviewees from 12 of the 33 institutions included in our study reported that they had received requests for personal access to raw genomic data from sequenced individuals. In the absence of policies on how to process such requests, these were decided on an ad hoc basis; in the end, at least 28 requests were granted, while there were no reports of requests being rejected. Given the rights, interests, and liabilities at stake, it is essential that sequencing institutions adopt clear policies and processes for raw genomic data retention and personal access.

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