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Search and Share Alike

With its search engine called Beacon, the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health hopes to enable sharing of genetic data using the Internet, Technology Review's Antonio Regalado reports.

Currently, he notes, much of the genetic data that has been generated is saved in a series of separate databases, making it difficult for other researchers to mine them to pull together the ever larger numbers of genomes needed to fuel studies.

Beacon, as GenomeWeb has reported, not only allows institutions to open up their genetic databases for sharing, but also spurs a conversation about data sharing. "We want to cultivate an atmosphere in which genomic information is shared as freely as possible while respecting the privacy of the individuals involved who are sequenced," David Haussler, from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and co-chair of a Global Alliance working group, told Uduak Grace Thomas over the summer. "The obstacles to that are not so much technical as they are social."

Part of that, Regalado adds, may be the development and adoption of a broad consent form for participants that would involve them giving permission for researchers to have controlled access to their data.

So far, Regalado notes, 15 databases are compatible with Beacon.

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