It is very important that we have a clear understanding of how precise and useful genomic-based measurements really are, in order to safeguard and promote the interests of people in different areas of life – whether they are a patient or an asylum seeker.
(PRWeb UK) October 7, 2009
Using DNA to determine the nationality of asylum seekers, and how the NHS will cope with patients concerned about results of over the counter genetic tests are just two current controversies that will be considered at a major international conference starting today (Wednesday) in Cardiff.
‘Mapping the Genomic Era: Measurements and Meanings’ will look at the varied uses DNA testing is now being put to, and ask whether the results and their consequences are clearly understood.
The meeting has been organised by the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Cesagen centre, which is part of the wider ESRC Genomic Network, established to examine the social and economic consequences surrounding the development and use of genomics.
Cesagen Director and conference organiser, Professor Ruth Chadwick said: “We are constantly being measured, and in various ways. Cholesterol level and waist measurement, for example, are classic indicators of health risks. But now we have entered the genomic era, we are beginning to see the increasing pervasiveness of DNA tests in our everyday life.
“But what do all these measurements mean? Are they appropriate? Or is there a danger that technology will be misused or its results misinterpreted? The conference will examine all these questions.
“It is very important that we have a clear understanding of how precise and useful genomic-based measurements really are, in order to safeguard and promote the interests of people in different areas of life – whether they are a patient or an asylum seeker.”
The three day gathering is the annual conference of the ESRC Council's Genomics Network, and it brings together social and natural scientists with policy makers and commentators from across the globe. This year it has been organised by the network's Cesagen centre, which is based at the Universities of Cardiff and Lancaster.
The conference comes in the light of last week’s news that the UK Border Agency was using DNA testing to try to establish where migrants into the UK are from.
Professor Chadwick commented that to produce valid information on differences between individuals requires very large scale population wide research.
One such wide scale project to be highlighted at the conference is the UK Biobank, a major medical research initiative aiming to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses.
One of Biobank’s biggest supporters is Welsh rugby union legend and former orthopaedic surgeon JPR Williams, who will deliver an after dinner speech at the conference.
He has recently been involved in promoting participation in the Welsh arm of the project,
A major conference highlights is a talk by Sir Martin Evans - winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on embryonic stem cells - who will address some of the issues raised by using these cells as a source of therapeutic cells for regenerative medicine.
One keynote talk will look personalised medicine and the reshaping of healthcare, in the light of concerns that increasing sales of genetic testing via the internet may soon overburden the NHS, as consumers approach their GPs for explanations of the results.
Further sessions will look at synthetic biology, non-invasive prenatal testing; public expectations of genomic science, and the translation of genomic research into public health policy.
The 3rd International ESRC Genomics Network Conference
'Mapping the Genomic Era: Measurements and Meanings' Cardiff, 7-9 October 2009
Notes to editors:
For further information, and interviews with Professor Chadwick contact:
Dave Stevens (Tel: +44 (0) 845 257 5388, dave at marrella dot info) or Emma Capewell 0131 651 4746
1. 'Mapping the Genomic Era: Measurements and Meanings' City Hall, Cardiff, 7-9 October 2009
2. The programme is available at
3. The ESRC Genomics Network Launched in 2002 to examine the social and economic consequences surrounding the development and use of genomics, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Genomics Network is one of the ESRC's largest social science investments. The Network.consists of: Cesagen (Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics) a Cardiff-Lancaster collaboration led by Professor Ruth Chadwick; Egenis (ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society) headed by Professor John Dupré at Exeter; and Innogen (ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics) - collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and the Open University, directed by Professor David Wield; and the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, led by Professor Steve Yearley, Professor of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge at University of Edinburgh.
4. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research which impacts on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2008/09 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk