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Global Genomics Priorities and Public Health

The wealthier nations of the world are focusing their genomics research efforts primarily on projects that will address their major health problems — they are placing a big emphasis on stratified medicine studies — and they are not putting much effort into working with low and middle-income countries on their big concerns, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

A recent OECD report looking at seven wealthier nations finds "significant differences in priority" between the richer countries and the rest, with higher income states aiming to use genomics-driven medicine to deal with chronic disease, while those with lower incomes are focused on infectious diseases, PharmaTimes' Lynn Taylor writes.

Although there has been "relatively few examples" of stratified medicine being used successfully so far, genomics already has shown "significant public health benefits," providing new methods for diagnosing and tracking infectious diseases and speeding the development of new vaccines, Taylor writes.

Within this context, the report finds, wealthier countries do not have much incentive to engage in many international public health genomics collaborations. Lower income nations with fewer resources have more to gain by collaborating and, consequently, are more likely to pursue the sort of projects that could offer the biggest global benefit.

"It is generally agreed that international collaboration in both research and implementation is essential if the full potential of genomics for infectious disease control, both nationally and globally, is to be realized," the OECD report notes. "By contrast, the development of stratified medicine tends to be seen as primarily a national issue, with international initiatives in this area directed towards fostering an appropriate regulatory and economic environment supportive of national innovation."

The study was limited and small, "a snapshot of a rapidly developing field," the report's authors note. Conducted with the help of the UK-based ESRC Genomics Network, the study only looked at Finland; Israel; Luxembourg; Mexico; the United Kingdom; China; and South Africa.

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