The US National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has been releasing a series of white papers as part of its long range planning process on the future of human genome research (see press release). Although termed white papers, these documents in fact pose a series of questions relating to different aspects of human genome research with the aim of stimulating discussion and identifying how the NHGRI can contribute to advances in genomic research. Community members have been asked to comment and review the questions in each document, so that the NHGRI can identify topics for further planning activities and workshops.
The first two documents contain questions pertinent to applying genomics to clinical problems and have been further divided into questions pertaining to diagnostics, preventive medicine, and pharmacogenomics and those pertaining to therapeutics. The questions raised include addressing how genetically-based diagnostic or risk assessment strategies add to existing medical technologies and what information and decisions support mechanisms will convince and aid physicians to employ such strategies. In terms of therapeutics, the NHGRI feel that it can contribute by considering such things as what the critical gaps in infrastructure are and how efforts to define the mechanistic underpinnings of disease predisposition, initiation, and/or progression can be improved.
The third paper relates to education and community engagement and raises questions relating to health professional education as well as public education and community engagement. The final paper on the future of human genome sequencing contains a series of poses a number of questions raised by the emergence of next-generation and third generation sequencing technologies, such as their consequences for biomedical research and the value of continued development in these technologies.
The NHGRI will receive comments on the questions posed in these white papers till the end of February and based upon these responses a mature set of questions will be established and open for comment from mid-March. The institute’s previous planning process resulted in the publication of an article in Nature in which leading figures from the NHGRI outlined their vision for the future of human genomics (see previous news).