07 December 2017

Søren Brunak: Good Idea to Store All Genome Data in One Place

National Genome Centre

The National Genome Centre is establishing a joint infrastructure for health data collected from Danish patients. But not everyone is happy with the bill, which has caused much debate lately. Now Professor Søren Brunak explains why it makes sense to store all data in one place, why it is the safest solution, and how data in the future can make a great difference in the health sector.

(Video in Danish)

The Ministry of Health is currently working on a bill that will change Danish health legislation by establishing a National Genome Centre. The centre is part of the National Strategy for Personalized Medicine, which aims to offer Danish patients more targeted healthcare. As part of this agenda the centre will establish and develop a joint infrastructure for various types of health data collected from Danish patients. But not everyone welcomes the bill.
Over the past weeks Danish media have seen critical headlines such as ’Watch out: the state wants your DNA’ (Politiken 02.11.2017) and ‘Rushed bill’ (Ekstra Bladet 02.12.2017). The Ministry of Health has responded by publishing a news sheet on the ministry’s website. Here the ministry dispels the myths surrounding the new bill, which has just been submitted for consideration. According to Research Director and Professor at Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research Søren Brunak, the new initiative also offers great advantages.

‘Storing all genetic information in one place rather than at several locations is a good idea. The idea of having one security model for this kind of data is preferable, rather than having many different models that can be difficult to overview for patients, researchers, politicians and citizens. When scientists are to find genetic patterns that the doctors can subsequently use in the clinic, it is essential for statistical reasons to have a large data material. Separate analyses in smaller amounts of data will impair the possibilities for finding clinically relevant DNA variation. With new computer technology, the Center can store data in a way that makes it impossible to remove the data from place where they are stored. The technology also means that you always can manage and control who accesses data and exactly what they are used for’, says Professor Søren Brunak.

Søren Brunak also stresses the advantage of the solution to research based on health data.

‘There is huge potential in compiling and using data in research. First and foremost, research based on large amounts of data can for example teach us whether our medical treatment of patients is appropriate. And in the long term we will be able to use data-based research to develop new drugs targeted more precisely at the individual patients’ DNA’, says Søren Brunak.

Read more about the National Genome Centre