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A public backlash towards genomics is a risk all of us working in genomics must share

The group had a short letter published in the Lancet responding to the public backlash to Spectrum10k
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Contributors Anna Middleton
1st April 2022

In January 2022, the UK Government Office for Science (GoS) released Genomics Beyond Healthcare,1 a report with explicit recommendations for ‘greater public dialogue’ around the application of genomic technology.

We see the benefits of genomics through our work in public engagement, communications, ethics and policy. We also see that whole swathes of society actively turn away from genomics due to deep mistrust, lived experience of discrimination, fear of what could happen to their data or being overwhelmed by the science.

Recognition that engagement with public audiences is pivotal to building trust in the technology, and its use among certain communities, is decades old. Yet recently a university project on the genetics of autism caused thousands to sign an online petition as well as stage a physical protest. Protestors saw the word ‘genetics’ but heard ‘eugenics’.2

Public audiences do not distinguish between organisations working in genomics. This means a public backlash in one area of genomics impacts all – whether we are in healthcare, in non-profit academic research or for-profit industry developing life-saving gene therapies. Taking proactive steps to understand, explore and address public concerns is something we should be doing collectively because no one organisation can mitigate risk in this arena alone.

Citation:

Middleton A, Parry V, Borra J et al (2022) A public backlash towards genomics is a risk all of us working in genomics must share. The Lancet Regional Health - Europe [Online] vol. 15, article 100347. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666776222000400#cebibl1 [Accessed : 1 Apil 2022]