Ethical, legal, and social issues in the Earth BioGenome Project

Ethical, legal, and social issues in the Earth BioGenome Project
Jacob S. Sherkow, Katharine B. Barker, Robert Cook-Deegan, Richard Durbin et al.
Perspective, Evolution
PNAS, January 18, 2022 | 119 (4) e2115859119
The Earth BioGenome Project (EBP) is an audacious endeavor to obtain whole-genome sequences of representatives from all eukaryotic species on Earth. In addition to the project’s technical and organizational challenges, it also faces complicated ethical, legal, and social issues. This paper, from members of the EBP’s Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues (ELSI) Committee, catalogs these ELSI concerns arising from EBP. These include legal issues, such as sample collection and permitting; the applicability of international treaties, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol; intellectual property; sample accessioning; and biosecurity and ethical issues, such as sampling from the territories of Indigenous peoples and local communities, the protection of endangered species, and cross-border collections, among several others. We also comment on the intersection of digital sequence information and data rights. More broadly, this list of ethical, legal, and social issues for large-scale genomic sequencing projects may be useful in the consideration of ethical frameworks for future projects. While we do not—and cannot—provide simple, overarching solutions for all the issues raised here, we conclude our perspective by beginning to chart a path forward for EBP’s work.

The Human Pangenome Project: a global resource to map genomic diversity

The Human Pangenome Project: a global resource to map genomic diversity
Ting Wang, Lucinda Antonacci-Fulton, David Haussler
Perspective | 20 April 2022
Nature, Volume 604 Issue 7906, 21 April 2022
The Human Pangenome Reference Consortium aims to offer the highest quality and most complete human pangenome reference that provides diverse genomic representation across human populations.
The human reference genome is the most widely used resource in human genetics and is due for a major update. Its current structure is a linear composite of merged haplotypes from more than 20 people, with a single individual comprising most of the sequence. It contains biases and errors within a framework that does not represent global human genomic variation. A high-quality reference with global representation of common variants, including single-nucleotide variants, structural variants and functional elements, is needed. The Human Pangenome Reference Consortium aims to create a more sophisticated and complete human reference genome with a graph-based, telomere-to-telomere representation of global genomic diversity. Here we leverage innovations in technology, study design and global partnerships with the goal of constructing the highest-possible quality human pangenome reference. Our goal is to improve data representation and streamline analyses to enable routine assembly of complete diploid genomes. With attention to ethical frameworks, the human pangenome reference will contain a more accurate and diverse representation of global genomic variation, improve gene–disease association studies across populations, expand the scope of genomics research to the most repetitive and polymorphic regions of the genome, and serve as the ultimate genetic resource for future biomedical research and precision medicine.

Uganda Genome Resource: A rich research database for genomic studies of communicable and non-communicable diseases in Africa

Uganda Genome Resource: A rich research database for genomic studies of communicable and non-communicable diseases in Africa
Segun Fatumo, Joseph Mugisha, Opeyemi Soremekun, Allan Kalungi, Richard Mayanja, Christopher Kintu, Ronald Makanga, Ayoub Kakande, Andrew Abaasa, Gershim Asiki, Robert Kalyesubula, Robert Newton, Moffat Nyirenda, Manjinder S Sandhu, Pontiano Kaleebu
medRxiv, 2022.05.05.22274740; doi:
   The Uganda Genome Resource (UGR) is a well characterised genomic database, with a range of phenotypic communicable and non-communicable diseases and risk factors generated from the Uganda General Population Cohort (GPC) – a population-based open cohort study established in 1989 by the Medical Research Council (MRC) UK in collaboration with the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).

In 2011, UGR was launched with genotype data on ∼5000 and whole genome sequence data on ∼2000 Ugandan individuals from 9 ethno-linguistic groups. Leveraging other available platforms at the MRC Uganda such as Biorepository centre for sample storage, Clinical Diagnostic Laboratory Service (CDLS) for sample diagnostic testing, sequencing platform for DNA extraction, Uganda Medical informatics Unit (UMIC) for large-scale data analysis, GPC for additional sample collection, UGR is strategically poised to expand and generate scientific discoveries.

Here, we describe UGR and highlight the important genetic findings thus far including how UGR is providing opportunities to: (1) discover novel disease susceptibility genetic loci; (2) refine association signals at new and existing loci; (3) develop and test Polygenic Risk Score (PRS) to determine individual’s disease risk; 4) assess how some risk factors including infectious diseases are causally related to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa; (5) develop research capacity for genomics in Africa; and (6) enhance African participation in the global genomics research arena. Leveraging established research infrastructure, expertise, local genomic leadership, global collaboration and strategic funding, we anticipate that UGR can develop further to a comparable level of European and Asian large-scale genomic initiatives.