I have the privilege to teach a clinical genetics course in Spanish at an online university. The course is fully online and it has now been running for three years, each time with 25-50 students. Students range from many countries including Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Andorra, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, etc.
Today was the last class of my course and we were discussing challenges affecting the adoption of genomics in the clinic. I was amazed by some of the insights I heard and thought it a waste not to record them in writing. I have synthesised their comments and personal thoughts below.
- CHALLENGE 1:
- Need to educate the public. The vast majority of the public is not aware of the types of genetic analysis already available and the data richness they produce about one’s personal genome. They cannot ask for something they do not know.
- CHALLENGE 2:
- Ethics. Stakeholders’ ability to ethically discern the use and protection required for individuals to access, share and use their personal genetic data are often misunderstood.
- CHALLENGE 3:
- Law. There is an increasing need for jurisdictions to be able to work together with genetic data that have been produced remotely and analysed in a third country. There is no agreement internationally on how to handle genetic data across jurisdictions.
- CHALLENGE 4:
- Increasing pace of innovation. Despite the tremendous technological advances in genomics occurring ever more rapidly, the clinic’s ability to bridging the gap is languishing behind.
- CHALLENGE 5:
- Unequal access to technology. People’s ability to access genome technology is markedly different, depending on the country they live in or the access to healthcare an individual has.
- CHALLENGE 6:
- Ever decreasing costs of technology. Cost continues to decrease for running next generation sequencing. Although a good thing, many laboratories remain unprepared to deal with this technology.
- CHALLENGE 7:
- Increasing volumes of data. As well as decreasing cost, quality and breadth of data are increasing, producing ever more information to be handled and interpreted. The demand for equipment and human resources capable to deal with them keeps rising.
Although such challenges may be near future obstacles for the adoption of genomics in the clinic, I am optimistic that they will all be overcome soon enough. My belief is that we are not far from the point of no return where every hospital everywhere will awake to the myriad applications genomic analysis can provide for better healthcare of their patients. This can only be good news for those of us in the field willing to stick around for a while.