30 Apr 2018 – 9:02

Experts discuss genomics and ethics

The local and international experts during the Qatar Genome Program’s second Symposium at the Qatar National Convention Center yesterday. Pic: Salim Matramkot/The Peninsula

By Fazeena Saleem / The Peninsula

Doha: The Qatar Genome Programme (QGP), a member of Qatar Foundation yesterday brought together local and international experts to its second symposium to discuss on genomics and ethics.

The two-day symposium is being held under the theme ‘Ethics, Regulations and Best Practices in Genomic Medicine’, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health(MoPH) and the Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics at Qatar National Convention Centre.

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At the symposium number of local and international researchers, policy-makers, and academics discuss a range of topics relevant to the genomics field, including governance of national genomic projects, genomic data ownership and sharing, delivery of genomic data and its integration into the national health system and bioethics.

“Each genomic breakthrough comes with corresponding moral, ethical and legal issues, including ones we may not anticipated. It is our responsibility to address these concerns with the same rigor that we conduct our research.

“This means understanding the cultural and religious traditions and restrictions of our patients, so we can best serve them,” said Professor Asmaa Al Thani, Chairperson of the QGP Committee and Board Vice-Chairperson of Qatar Biobank in her opening remarks.

“We may hear many different perspectives at this symposium, touching on a wide range of ethical and legal experiences. It is our hope that through these dialogues, we will be able to find guidance  as we navigate the sometimes the difficult ethical, legal regulatory waters and continue to refine best practices that will guide us as we move forward,” she added.

During the opening session Dr Said Ismail, QGP Programme Manager, did a presentation on  ‘Qatar Genome Programme: An Overview’ and said that the first genome was sequenced in 2015, and next month QGP will be celebrating the sequencing of 10,000 genomes. He also highlighted the other activates and  goals of the QGP and it first phase.

Scientists from Qatar and across the world present their groundbreaking research and findings in the field of genetics and genomics at the Symposium.

Dr Kathy Farndon, former Head of Genomics Data and Informatics and Informatics at the NHS England, delivered a key note speech on ‘Genomic Data and Clinical Integration; Challenges and Opportunities’.

She shared some of the challenges and opportunities faced in the 100,000 genome project and how NHS has addressed them sharing what has been learned on their journey to precision medicine and using genomic medicine to personal care.

While, during a session on ‘National Genome Projects; Governance, Policies and Regulations’, experts discussed overview of achievements in genomic research policies around the globe.

Dr Eman Al Sadoun, Chief of Clinical Research MoPH discussed on the ‘Ethical Conduct of Genomic Research in Qatar’ and outlined that the  ‘Genomic Policy’ aims at assisting assists investigators in the design and conduct of genomic research, assist institutional review and oversight of research and  address genomic risks.

At present the ‘Genomic Policy’ under the approval process of the Qatar National Research Ethics Committee.  Today the Symposium will discuss topics such as ‘Genetic Counseling’ and ‘Islamic Bioethics.’