Researchers are studying human genomic diversity using biological samples from several indigenous tribes in Southern Africa Zulu, Xhosa, Herero, San and Sotho-Tswana. Although this study does not look at disease genes per se, it will provide data on baseline variation across these populations.
The South African government is also considering a proposal for a national genomic medicine research programme with three components: characterization of human genomic variation within the South African populations, identification of the genomic basis of susceptibility to common diseases (both chronic and infectious) and pharmacogenomics.
Mexico recently enacted genomic sovereignty legislation in response to reports of foreign researchers attempting to obtain blood samples from Mexican subjects, including indigenous groups, without official approval. This "safari research" fuelled concerns that neither the research participants nor the general Mexican population would benefit from such research.
In India, guidelines restrict the export of human samples. They were created amid similar worries about foreign exploitation of India's large population resource, with its multi-generational endogamous families and well maintained genealogical records.
One fifth of the global population lives in India and thus a significant amount of human genomic variation can be found there among its various populations.
Many of those took part in the study noted the delicate balancing act required to protect genomic sovereignty while fostering international collaborations that can provide much needed financing and potentially contribute to local scientific capacity building.
The concluding paper in the series was co-authored by the MRC
|Contact: Terry Collins|
Program on Life Sciences, Ethics and Policy,McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health