Genomics and policy
Sustainability:The fight against infectious disease, OECD.
'Biotechnology, genomics and informatics offer a growing range of
approaches to help prevent monitor and detect, diagnose and treat infectious disease.
Appropriate policies are however necessary to ensure that the right tools reach the right
right people at the right time.'
-Biotechnology and Sustainability:The fight against infectious disease, OECD.
Technological and scientific innovations impact human life in many ways. Taking the case of medical research and technologies this impact ranges from influencing the standard of health of people indirectly by contributing to economic development, to providing better management of disease and the eventual reduction in human suffering.
With the mapping of the human genome, the genetics revolution has begun. The science of genomics is contributing to the production of innovative medical research, technologies and services. A well known example is the increasing use of genetic technologies by the pharmaceutical industry in drug discovery and development. In the past genomics has consistently generated solutions for the prevention, diagnosis and management of many diseases that have been difficult or impossible to control. This includes improved diagnosis and better management of both communicable and noncommunicable diseases. Genomics suggests significant benefits for the future of medicine and public health. The implications of genomics for public health should neither be underestimated or ignored.
In light of existing health challenges, policy makers can capture the potential of genomics to meet public health goals through health policy. The exact role of genetics in the causation of human disease needs to be clarified which means investing in education and research. This understanding will pave the way to innovative new ways of applying the tools of genomics to address health challenges. There is a great need to evaluate the existing utility of genetic services and technologies in addressing existing disease burdens. Areas like financing of genetic research, including patenting and intellectual property issues, equitable access and affordability of genetic information and services, raising the level of public awareness on genomics, and the establishing as well as maintaining ethical standards in genomics also need to be considered with care by policy makers.
In many countries health policy has yet to integrate genetics approaches into health care. This requires policy makers to be knowledgeable about the science and its possibilities, to keep abreast with the progress in genetic science and technology and also include genomics in the design and renewal of health interventions. Cuba, Brazil, India, China and South Africa are countries that offer excellent examples of the utilisation of genetic technology and services to address the health needs of their populations and genomic innovation as a way of stimulating development and generating products and services to address local needs.
The expanding role of genetics in medicine and health necessitates international collaborative efforts to create sound and just frameworks from which to build and further the research and applications of genomic technologies. Policy makers have a significant role to play in the redirection of local and global resources into genetic research and development to target the specific health needs of their communities. Their advocacy can advance genomics research and technologies, enhance the transfer and exchange of genomic information, encourage global collaborations, and improve health services worldwide.