The Conversation - Genomics has a diversity problem

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The advent of genomic sequencing opened a new era of precision medicine in which treatments can take into account the unique differences between individuals. But there’s one major hurdle: The data is overwhelmingly from white people. As a result, researchers are unable to capture much of the genetic diversity of populations around the world. And lacking a full picture of all the forms the human genome can take can limit understanding of a given disease.

One global initiative is trying to change that. Researchers in 14 countries across four continents are collecting and analyzing DNA samples from around the world, trying to uncover the genetic underpinnings of mental illness. Hailiang Huang and his colleagues describe the guiding principles of the collaboration, and the new sequencing method they’ve developed to help capture the genetic diversity of humanity.

Also today:

Vivian Lam

Assistant Health and Biomedicine Editor

Ethical and equitable scientific collaboration could help increase the genetic diversity of genomic data. gmast3r/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Uncovering the genetic basis of mental illness requires data and tools that aren’t just based on white people – this international team is collecting DNA samples around the globe

Hailiang Huang, Harvard University

Existing genetic data and sequencing tools are overwhelmingly based on people of European ancestry, which excludes much of the rich genetic variation of the world.

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