Returning actionable genomic results in a research biobank: Analytic validity, clinical implementation, and resource utilization

Am J Hum Genet. 2021 Dec 2;108(12):2224-2237. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2021.10.005. Epub 2021 Nov 8.


Over 100 million research participants around the world have had research array-based genotyping (GT) or genome sequencing (GS), but only a small fraction of these have been offered return of actionable genomic findings (gRoR). Between 2017 and 2021, we analyzed genomic results from 36,417 participants in the Mass General Brigham Biobank and offered to confirm and return pathogenic and likely pathogenic variants (PLPVs) in 59 genes. Variant verification prior to participant recontact revealed that GT falsely identified PLPVs in 44.9% of samples, and GT failed to identify 72.0% of PLPVs detected in a subset of samples that were also sequenced. GT and GS detected verified PLPVs in 1% and 2.5% of the cohort, respectively. Of 256 participants who were alerted that they carried actionable PLPVs, 37.5% actively or passively declined further disclosure. 76.3% of those carrying PLPVs were unaware that they were carrying the variant, and over half of those met published professional criteria for genetic testing but had never been tested. This gRoR protocol cost approximately $129,000 USD per year in laboratory testing and research staff support, representing $14 per participant whose DNA was analyzed or $3,224 per participant in whom a PLPV was confirmed and disclosed. These data provide logistical details around gRoR that could help other investigators planning to return genomic results.

Keywords: biobank; genetic; genomic; research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Specimen Banks*
  • Cohort Studies
  • DNA
  • Disclosure
  • Disease / genetics*
  • Duty to Recontact
  • Female
  • Genetic Research
  • Genetic Testing
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Genomics* / economics
  • Genomics* / standards
  • Genomics* / trends
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • DNA