In an era of unrivalled sequencing, computation and networking capability, international sharing of genomic samples and data is becoming a modus operandi for modern medical research. Researchers are collaborating to establish large collections with global scale. Having never before set foot outside the cell, the molecules that shape us are being digitized and launched across the globe. Protecting individual privacy interests in this information is a central challenge of the genomic research era. This article reviews international privacy norms governing human (...) genomic biobanks and databases. It will not directly consider biobanks established for other health-related purposes, such as screening or therapy. A genomic biobank is “a hybrid infrastructure,” an organized collection of human biological material combined with associated health information: physical measurements, outcome data in medical records, and epidemiological information, as well as genomic data derived from the samples. (shrink)
This article examines the complex and contemporary issue of the return of research results in biobanks. After suggesting the exclusion of some adjacent issues usually flanking the debate, this article reviews the current practices of biobanks on the disclosure of research results to participants. It then focuses more specifically on the debate in the literature before turning to a review of the typology of recent reforms being put forward.
In 2009, Time magazine named “biobanks” as one of the 10 ideas changing the world. These organized collections of human biological material and associated data have been identified as “vital research tools in the drive to uncover the consequences of human health and disease.” Since their inception, however, biobanks have faced ethical and legal challenges. Whether these pertain to informed consent, access by researchers, commercialization, confidentiality, or governance, biobanks must continue to address jurisdictional matters, operational difficulties, and normative frameworks that (...) strive to stay abreast of current scientific innovation. Yet, with some biobanks now having completed their recruitment objectives and with research currently being performed on their data and samples, one topic has become the focus of ongoing debates: the return of research results to participants. (shrink)