NIH proposes genetic-studies database

The National Institutes of Health seeks comments on a proposed policy to let researchers access from a repository the data resulting from NIH-funded, genomewide association studies.

Genomewide association studies rely on newly available research tools and technologies to rapidly analyze genetic differences between people with specific illnesses, such as diabetes or heart disease, compared with healthy individuals. The differences may point to genetic risk factors for the development or progression of disease.

NIH, an agency of the Health and Human Services Department, will accept comments through Oct. 31, according to the request for information published in today's Federal Register.

Several NIH institutes recently launched or are planning genomewide initiatives with the expectation that the results will hasten the development of better diagnostic tools and the design of new and highly effective treatments.

"I predict that comprehensive, genomics-based health care will become the norm, with individualized preventive medicine and early detection of illnesses. The NIH policies that give researchers rapid access to these findings will be an important step along that path," said NIH director Elias Zerhouni in a statement.

NIH seeks to harmonize the policies by which the results of genomewide association studies will be made available to researchers. The proposed policy calls for NIH-funded investigators of the genome studies to quickly submit genetic data about individuals to a centralized NIH data repository. Data, which will be submitted in a form that protects the privacy and confidentiality of research participants, will be available to all approved researchers to accelerate their studies.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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