The FarGen project,
which aims to make the Faroe Islands the first country in the world to sequence the genome of every citizen (see previous news
), is moving slowly forward.
The population of the Faroes is around 50,000; combined with full digital health records, this makes it an ideal place for a genomic medicine pilot, integrating full genomic data with health care delivery and research.
One recent report says that the aim of the project is to sequence 1,000 genomes by mid-2014; this is a sharp downwards revision from previously announced plans to sequence 5,000 genomes by the end of 2013.
The programme delays may be the result of protracted arrangements to establish a centre with the technical capacity for whole genome sequencing, though there has also been widespread discussion if wider ethical, legal and social implications thrown up by the project.
However, there are many new competitors in the race towards genomic medicine, including major players with extensive resources, such as the UK’s Department of Health 100,000 Genomes Project and the US Military Veteran Program. The FarGen project may in the end be valuable more for the resource it creates for genetic research on a relatively isolated population than as a test bed for genomic data in healthcare.