Request for comments on genome data

On Nov. 24, 2009, President Obama established The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to advise him on bioethical issues generated by novel and emerging research in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology.

The commission is examining issues of privacy and access as pertains to large-scale human genome sequence data, including whole exome and whole genome data. As a result of the tremendous technological advances that have dramatically reduced the cost of sequencing, the science is at a point where relatively inexpensive, rapid sequencing of whole human genomes appears not only likely, but imminent.

This prospect raises many questions for the ethics, scientific, medical, and patient communities related to how this information can and ought be collected, used, and governed. At the February 2012 meeting, the commission decided to focus specifically on those questions related to privacy and data access and the balancing of individual and societal interests. The commission will spend the next few months soliciting additional input from the ethics, scientific, and patient communities.

The commission is particularly interested in policies, practices, research, and perspectives on issues of privacy and data access as they relate to the integration of large-scale human genome sequencing into research and clinical care. To this end, the commission is inviting interested parties to provide input and advice through written comments. Among other issues, the commission is interested in receiving comments on the implications of large-scale human genome sequencing for the privacy of individuals, research subjects, patients, and their families; the views of those groups and medical professional communities about privacy, both as regards genomic information and evolving notions of privacy, as evidenced and influenced by social media; and models and mechanisms for protecting privacy, in genetic/genomic databases and biobanks, but also in large databases of sensitive information.

The commission is further interested in receiving comments on issues related to balancing individual and societal interests with regard to the sharing of and access to large-scale human genomic data; the views of patients and other stakeholders on who should have access to these data and who should control access; models and mechanisms for governing access to genomic information; the role of health information technology in providing and governing access to genomic data; and access to genetic/genomic information by law enforcement entities.


  • Address comments by email to, or by mail to the following address: Public Commentary, The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, 1425 New York Ave. NW, Suite C–100, Washington, DC 20005. Comments will be publicly available, including any personally identifiable or confidential business information that they contain.