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Commercial genomics inquiry launched

4 March 2019

The Science and Technology Committee launches an inquiry into commercial genomic testing to establish what safeguards need to be put in place to protect those who get tested.

Genomic testing seeks to offer health benefits and can provide other useful services. However, some have raised concerns regarding the potential risks associated with genomic tests being made directly available to consumers, including on the test's reliability and accuracy, the support available to consumers for understanding and acting on results, and the impact of these commercial tests on the NHS.

The Committee will explore these issues and is seeking written submissions by Friday 26 April on:

  • any health or other benefits that consumers can derive from using commercially available genomic testing;
  • the industrial strategy opportunity for genomics within the UK biotechnology sector, and how the Government could support UK growth (including for exports);
  • the extent to which currently available genomic sequencing and interpretation can provide accurate and unambiguous health results, for healthy and ill sections of the population;
  • the counselling or other support offered for those receiving, or considering asking for, commercial genomic test results, and whether this is to the standard required;
  • the potential benefits and risks for the NHS that arise from the increasing availability of commercial genomic testing;
  • what data obtained from genomic testing could be used for and if sufficient protection is in place for consumers using commercial genomic tests;
  • the regulations or standards that commercial genomic tests are currently subject to, and if any new or strengthened regulations or standards should be introduced to mitigate any perceived risks associated with commercial genomic testing; and
  • the potential benefits and risks, for individuals and for the NHS, and the ethical implications of the NHS offering genomic testing to healthy individuals willing to pay and share their data anonymously.

Please submit written evidence via our inquiry page.

The idea for this inquiry was pitched to the Committee by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics through the Committee's ‘My Science Inquiry' open call for inquiry suggestions.

Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said:

“The potential and varied benefits of genomic testing are clear. However, interpreting what genomic test results mean for a person's health remains a complex process.

“Consumers using genomic tests outside of the NHS must have the support they need before and after testing and be confident and fully informed about how their data is being used by commercial providers.

“This includes psychological and emotional support for those who receive results that may have a significant impact on their future health and wellbeing.

“There are also ethical and practical considerations for healthy people using genomic testing on the NHS if they pay for testing and agree to share their data anonymously.

“Questions have also arisen around the increasing numbers of people opting for commercial genomic testing and the demand it could place on the NHS.

“This inquiry intends to explore if the current regulatory framework for commercial genomic testing is fit for purpose.”

Further information

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