In DepthGenomics

Genetics lab accused of misusing African DNA

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Science  01 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6465, pp. 555-556
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6465.555

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Advocates for genomic research in Africa are worried about fallout from a dispute that has roiled the Wellcome Sanger Institute, a major genome research center in Hinxton, U.K. Last year, whistleblowers privately accused Sanger of developing and buying 75,000 gene chips without proper legal agreements with partner institutions and the consent of the hundreds of African people whose donated DNA was used to develop the chip. The institute says it did not commercialize the chips or profit from them. Stellenbosch University in South Africa has demanded that Sanger return samples. In addition, one whistleblower says she was fired because of the controversy, and a large research team has left the institute and ended a plan to study the genomes of 100,000 Africans. More broadly, some researchers worry the controversy could erode trust between researchers and African people. Sanger planned to use the new chips to look for genetic insights into conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

  • * With additional reporting by Sarah Wild.

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