Eyes wide open: the personal genome project, citizen science and veracity in informed consent.
I am a close observer of the Personal Genome Project (PGP) and one of the original ten participants. The PGP was originally conceived as a way to test novel DNA sequencing technologies on human samples and to begin to build a database of human genomes and traits. However, its founder, Harvard geneticist George Church, was concerned about the fact that DNA is the ultimate digital identifier - individuals and many of their traits can be identified. Therefore, he believed that promising participants privacy and confidentiality would be impractical and disingenuous. Moreover, deidentification of samples would impoverish both genotypic and phenotypic data. As a result, the PGP has arguably become best known for its unprecedented approach to informed consent. All participants must pass an exam testing their knowledge of genomic science and privacy issues and agree to forgo the privacy and confidentiality of their genomic data and personal health records. Church aims to scale up to 100,000 participants. This special report discusses the impetus for the project, its early history and its potential to have a lasting impact on the treatment of human subjects in biomedical research.
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