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How to Fix Racial Bias in Genetic Databases

Most genetic research involves white Europeans. Are we at risk of missing out on new therapies and precision medicines as a result? 

Ever since the discovery of DNA, the field of genetics has seen some of science’s most ground-breaking achievements to date; such as cloning, genome sequencing, and vital research into disease prevention. Millions of lives have been saved and improved as a result.  

Yet despite these milestones, genetic research has almost exclusively focused on people of European descent, which has worryingly resulted in a lack of genetic information of people from other populations. But what have been the implications of this genetic bias? And what efforts are being undertaken to rectify this issue?  

In this virtual event as part of the Science Museum Group’s Open Talk series, a panel of experts in the study of genetics discuss the problems caused by genetic data bias, as well as the innovative attempts that have been made to better represent our diverse species within genetic databases.  

Speakers include:  

  • Professor David van Heel—Professor of Genetics, Queen Mary University London; Chief Investigator at Genes & Health, a study working to analyse the genes of Bangladeshi and Pakistani people.  
  • Aarathi Prasad (Chair)—Author, biologist and broadcaster; Honorary Research Fellow at University College London’s Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment.
  • Dr Janina Jeff—Geneticist, senior bioinformatics scientist with Illumina, and host of In Those Genes, a podcast that uses genetics to uncover the lost identities of African descended Americans.
  • Ananyo Choudhury—Senior Scientist and Reader for the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Find out more about this issue and why it’s so important for our future health in this new blog from Science Director Roger Highfield: Genetic data bias, why it matters and how to fix it - Science Museum Group Blog

Scheduled dates