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Estonia offers free genetic testing to develop personalized medicine

Estonia’s government is in the process of recruiting 100,00 people in a bid to eventually have the whole country’s DNA on a database so they can develop personalised medicine. 

The country’s government said it wanted to offer all of its residents genome-wide genotyping to be translated into personalised reports for use in everyday medical practice via its national e-health portal. 

This would essentially make it much faster to cater to the needs of patients as there are plenty of links between genetic variants and diseases or traits.

Estonia’s government already has many encrypted digital solutions incorporated into government functions that link the nation’s various databases via end-to-end encrypted pathways, the government said. 

The initiative is a joint development project of the Ministry of Social Affairs, the National Institute for Health Development (NIHD) and the Estonian Genome Center of the University of Tartu, which has maintained and studied the DNA of Estonia’s first 50,000 biobank participants.

“Today we have enough knowledge about both the genetic risk of complex diseases and the interindividual variability of the effects of medicines in order to begin systematically utilizing this information in everyday healthcare,” said Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski.

“In cooperation with the NIHD and the University of Tartu, we will enable another 100,000 people to join the Estonian Biobank in order to boost the development of personalized medicine in Estonia and thus contribute to the advancement of preventive healthcare.”

The Estonian government has allocated €5 million for the inititative this year.

The project will be coordinated by the NIHD, whose task is to develop and implement procedures and principles for the effective implementation of scientific research in medicine.

Estonian Genome Center director Andres Metspalu said: “We are glad that, with the support of the this project, the results of the long-erm work of the Genome Center will be transferred into practical medicine, and it will also give a further boost to our future research.

“The university will also contribute to the creation of a feedback system for biobank participants as well as to training healthcare professionals in providing patients with feedback based on their genetic information.”

The project will be implemented according to Estonia’s Human Genes Research Act and the same broad consent form used for the first 50,000 participants. 

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