NEWS

Bio-database issues

The availability of genetic data raises an important question about the ethics of creating and maintaining biological data banks where every sample is accompanied by a file of personal medical data. Data banks are needed, according to Giorgos Maniatis of Patras University Medical School, to facilitate research into the relations between genetic and environmental factors in disease. However, as Lillian Mitrou, assistant professor at the University of the Aegean, noted in her address, while the correlation of data may contribute to improvements in individual and public health, there is also a danger of labeling and stigmatizing certain groups of people, especially when the information is collected by private firms. The Swiss company Roche maintains a genetic database of Iceland’s entire population of 270,000. Roche was interested because Iceland is one of the few countries with a homogeneous population, which makes it easier to match genes with diseases. Running such a biological data bank in Greece would be problematic to say the least. «On such questions, the law must be updated regularly and the outcome monitored,» said APDP legal counselor Zoe Kardasiadou.