The Human Genome Project, and recent advances in personalized genomics

Risk Manag Healthc Policy. 2015 Feb 16;8:9-20. doi: 10.2147/RMHP.S58728. eCollection 2015.


The language of "personalized medicine" and "personal genomics" has now entered the common lexicon. The idea of personalized medicine is the integration of genomic risk assessment alongside other clinical investigations. Consistent with this approach, testing is delivered by health care professionals who are not medical geneticists, and where results represent risks, as opposed to clinical diagnosis of disease, to be interpreted alongside the entirety of a patient's health and medical data. In this review we consider the evidence concerning the application of such personalized genomics within the context of population screening, and potential implications that arise from this. We highlight two general approaches which illustrate potential uses of genomic information in screening. The first is a narrowly targeted approach in which genetic profiling is linked with standard population-based screening for diseases; the second is a broader targeting of variants associated with multiple single gene disorders, performed opportunistically on patients being investigated for unrelated conditions. In doing so we consider the organization and evaluation of tests and services, the challenge of interpretation with less targeted testing, professional confidence, barriers in practice, and education needs. We conclude by discussing several issues pertinent to health policy, namely: avoiding the conflation of genetics with biological determinism, resisting the "technological imperative", due consideration of the organization of screening services, the need for professional education, as well as informed decision making and public understanding.

Keywords: education; ethics; evidence; genomics; personalized medicine; population health.

Publication types

  • Review