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Genome Med. 2010 Mar 24;2(3):20. doi: 10.1186/gm141.

Tailoring the process of informed consent in genetic and genomic research.

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  • 1Inherited Disease Research Branch, Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, 12 South Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892-5635, USA.


Genomic science and associated technologies are facilitating an unprecedented rate of discovery of novel insights into the relationship between human genetic variation and health. The willingness of large numbers of individuals from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds to donate biological samples is one of the major factors behind the success of the ongoing genomic revolution. Although current informed consent documents and processes demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that study participants are well informed of the risks and benefits of participating in genomic studies, there continues to be a need to develop effective new approaches for adequately informing participants of the changing complexities of the scientific and ethical issues that arise in the conduct of genomics research. Examples of these complexities in genomic research include more widespread use of whole-genome sequencing technologies, broad sharing of individual-level data, evolving information technology, the growing demand for the return of genetic results to participants, and changing attitudes about privacy and the expansion of genomics studies to global populations representing diverse cultural, linguistic and socio-economic backgrounds. We highlight and briefly discuss the importance of ten core scientific, cultural and social factors that are particularly relevant to tailoring informed consent in genomic research, and we draw attention to the need for the informed consent document and process to be responsive to the evolving nature of genomic research.

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