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Personal Genome Project Grows

The Personal Genome Project is expanding into Europe, the Nature News Blog reports. The effort, spearheaded by Harvard Medical School's George Church, began in the US with a group of researchers and entrepreneurs who decided to make their genomes and medical histories open source.

While the effort is ramping up in the US to its target of 100,000 genomes — some 200 genomes have been released in full and 500 partially released genomes — the project is spreading to the UK. It has already begun efforts in Canada and Korea, and there are plans to include continental Europe as well in 2014.

According to the Nature News Blog, the project aims to add another 100,000 genomes from the people in the UK, and there are 400 people already on the waiting list. Stephan Beck, who is leading the UK-PGP, says the group hopes to sequence some 50 genomes in its first year. Beck adds that the project is interested in working with both the National Health Service and its Genome England project.

Critics urge people to be cautious in signing up, the Guardian adds. "Remember your DNA contains a unique genetic code which can be used to track you and identify your relatives. Stored online it will be accessible to police, security and border agencies based in any country," says GeneWatch's Helen Wallace. She praises, though, the project's informed consent process.