The ethics of access to online genetic databases: private or public?

Am J Pharmacogenomics. 2002;2(3):207-12. doi: 10.2165/00129785-200202030-00006.


With the sequencing of the human genome comes the promise of advances in medical science. For this promise to be fully realized, researchers must have access to information resulting from this landmark endeavor as well as from subsequent research initiatives. However, because genomic sequences are potential sources of profit for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, many private companies seek to limit access to this information. Some argue that this will impede scientific progress and increase the cost of basic research, while others argue that the privatization of genetic information is needed to assure profits and generate the considerable funding necessary to bring therapeutic products to the market. In analyzing the arguments for both sides, we conclude that both private funding and public access to information are important in genetic research. Precedents for compromise are necessary, as is increased dialog between private and public interests in order to ensure continued advancements in genetic science and medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Genetic / ethics*
  • Databases, Genetic / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Databases, Genetic / trends
  • Humans