The public needs to be made more aware of the issues
around genome sequencing if New Zealand is take full advantage
of the fast-growing technology, University of Otago Faculty of
Law dean Prof Mark Henaghan says.
Prof Henaghan, who is the principal investigator for the New
Zealand Law Foundation-funded Human Genome Research Project,
made the comments this week at a Science Media Centre
briefing discussing genomics and the legal and ethical
implications of future sequencing technologies.
New Zealand's healthcare and research sectors could benefit
hugely from developments in the field, but it was important
that the public was informed about the issue, he said.
One area which had "massive potential" was the development of
a databank containing the mapped genome of every New
However, because of a lack of understanding of genomics many
would be suspicious of such a move.
"We have got to get the goodwill of the public behind it,
because I think the potential good of it is fantastic," he
Prof Henaghan also spoke about some of the ethical issues
associated with genome sequencing.
This included whether people should inform family members if
they found they had a genetic mutation - as they were likely
to share the same genes.
Another issue was whether people should inform insurance
providers about the results of genome sequencing.
Chief executive of Dunedin company New Zealand Genomics Tony
Lough also spoke at the briefing.
He said he would "love to be involved" in the mapping of
every New Zealander's genome, but such a project was "not
quite on our radar" yet.
He earlier spoke about how rapidly genome-sequencing
technology was developing, bringing the cost and time it took
to map genomes down.
"It's expanding the opportunities for use of genomics and its
applications to health, agriculture, horticulture and the
"We are probably at a crossroads in terms of its applications
in society and across the economy," Mr Lough said.