Genomic resource centre

Global applications of genomics in healthcare: Iceland

Development of a national human genome database

Setting: research institutes

Focus of intervention: patients and families/researchers/community


The Icelandic people originate from a very small founding community. The people maintain detailed genealogical records tracing back to over 1,200 years, making Iceland a forerunner in the study of genetic variation in populations over time. Moreover, the minimal immigration has allowed the gene pool in Iceland to remain relatively stable, thus making it facile to trace variations that would cause diseases in the Icelandic community.


The government of Iceland, the Althing, approved a project which would entail mapping the genome of the Icelandic population in order to better study the genome of their people and to develop efficient treatments for illnesses. The government approved a foreign-company to begin developing this database. The company developing the database will be searching for over thirty diseases, including major ones such as emphysema and Alzheimer's.


The results expected from this database collection is to increase the knowledge of the people, to provide better quality medical care, to attract businesses, and to develop the technological industry of Iceland. Moreover, the government proposes to have medicines developed and provide them free to Icelanders. Furthermore, studying the Iceland population serves to broaden the field of population genetics, which can be a basis for studies in other countries and isolated communities with unique diseases. Similar work is being done in Estonia.