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Genom Austria launches as a new member of the Personal Genome Project

In many countries, genome sequencing technology is now starting to become available in the clinic, where it helps to diagnose rare Mendelian diseases and contributes to personalized cancer therapy. The analysis of personal genomes also creates unprecedented opportunities for predictive health counseling, ancestry research, and many more applications that are just starting to emerge.

Despite the strong impact that personal genome sequencing is likely to have in healthcare and beyond, public discussions on the societal and ethical aspects of this technology are only starting in most countries. Genom Austria thus aims to create a forum for such discussions at the interface of science and society.

To make personal genome sequencing concrete and tangible for people in Austria, the project will provide interested volunteers with the opportunity to have their genomes sequenced with state-of-the-art technology and to share the data with the public.

Participation is entirely voluntary and restricted to individuals who demonstrate adequate understanding of the implications of making their personal genomes publicly available. In its initial phase in 2015, Genom Austria will sequence the personal genomes of 20 selected volunteers who have consented to publish their genomes and related information openly and freely on the Internet.

Genom Austria will also contribute to science education by organizing a school project and open science workshops. Furthermore, it creates a forum for interdisciplinary dialog among experts and the general public in areas such as biology, medicine, ethics, sociology, psychology, history, and the arts.

Internationally, Genom Austria builds upon the pioneering work of the Personal Genome Project at Harvard, which was initiated by George Church in 2005 and currently has over 3,000 participants. Genom Austria is a member of the Global Network of Personal Genome Projects. It also collaborates with other member sites in the USA, Canada, and the UK, in order to exchange best practices in personal genomics, open science, participatory research, and engagement with society.

Genom Austria is physically based at the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna and jointly run with the Medical University of Vienna.

Provided by CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences