NEW YORK, Dec. 10 (GenomeWeb News) - The International HapMap Consortium is ending its computer-based click-wrap license restrictions, making HapMap data completely available to the public, the organization said today.
"We are pleased that researchers around the globe will now have swift and easy access to all HapMap data, free of any restrictions," Francis Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, said in a statement.
Researchers willing to obtain certain genotype data from the HapMap Project website had been required to affirm they will "not take any action (including patenting) that would restrict the access of others to the data within it or share the data with anyone who has not read these terms and conditions and agreed to them."
Specifically, researchers could have have freely downloaded information in the database about SNPs, SNP assays, and allele and genotype frequencies, according to the project's website. However, users will be required to complete a click-wrap license agreement when they want to view data about the genotypes related to those SNPs.
These data will be "gradually released," according to project organizers. "Once there is a sufficient density of genotype information in a chromosome region to derive haplotype information, the derived haplotypes and the underlying individual genotypes in that region will also be publicly released to dbSNP without restriction," the project organizers said.
Several recent developments prompted the consortium to drop the licensing step in order to access HapMap data. First, consortium researchers have already publicly released data on about 1 million SNPs. Second, Perlegen Sciences has publicly released genotype data on about 1.6 million SNPs. Third, new methods have been developed to analyze the data.
Faced with these advances, the consortium concluded that derivations of haplotypes and "haplotype tag SNPs" from HapMap data should be considered obvious and thus not patentable.
"The licensing agreement was quite non-restrictive and enabled most researchers to use HapMap data as they wished. However, there was an unavoidable consequence of the license: it did prevent HapMap data from being incorporated into other public genomic databases," said Collins.
Read the Dec. 18, 2003, Pharmacogenomics Reporter, a GernomeWeb News publication, for more information about the HapMap's erstwhile click-wrap regulations.