The Estonian Government will allocate 5 million euros next year to a joint development project of the Ministry of Social Affairs, the National Institute for Health Development and the Estonian Genome Center of the University of Tartu. The project aims to collect the genetic data of 100 000 people and integrate it into everyday medical practice by giving people feedback of their personal genetic risks. The general purpose of the project is to boost the development of personalised medicine in Estonia.
The project aims to collect the DNA of 100,000 individuals and to generate personalised genetic reports for the participants using the Illumina Global Screening Array. The goal of the project is to create a possibility to link genetic data with the Estonian National Health Information System, to enable physician take human personal genetic information into account when assessing the health risks of the patient.
"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 start systematically using this information in everyday healthcare," said Jevgeni Ossinovski, Minister of Health and Labour. "In cooperation with the National Institute for Health Development and the University of Tartu, we will enable another 100,000 people to join the Estonian biobank, in order to boost the development of personalised medicine in Estonia and thus contribute to the advancement of healthcare."
The Ministry of Social Affairs, the National Institute for Health Development and the University of Tartu will jointly implement the project. The collection, genotyping and initial analysis of gene samples will be managed by and done at the Estonian Genome Center of the University of Tartu, which already stores over 52,000 biological samples from the Estonian population. The university will also contribute to the creation of a feedback system for the biobank participants, and to training of healthcare professionals for giving patients feedback based on genetic information.
According to Andres Metspalu, Director of the Estonian Genome Center at the University of Tartu, the university welcomes the initiative of the Ministry of Social Affairs to increase the number of biobank participants. "We are glad that with the support of this project the results of the long-term work of the Genome Center will be transferred into practical medicine," said Professor Andres Metspalu. "Doctors have repeatedly pointed out that investments in research should be increased. The agreement we made today confirms that the Ministry of Social Affairs is increasing its investments into science. This is an important contribution to the development of modern evidence-based medicine in Estonia."
The project will be coordinated by the National Institute for Health Development, whose task is to develop and implement procedures and principles for the effective implementation of scientific research in everyday medicine.
According to Dr Toomas Veidebaum, Research Director of the National Institute for Health Development, this is a research project and the actual results and opportunities from this may become apparent only years later. "Today, the three parties of this project have a clear desire and also state funding to collect and genotype DNA samples from as many people as possible during the year. This is a great start, " said Veidebaum. "The actual research will only begin once the samples have been collected."
The representatives of the Ministry of Social Affairs, National Institute for Health Development and the University of Tartu met today, on 20 December in Tartu, to agree on the main points of the project and the responsibilities of each organisation. The cooperation agreement will be signed by the end of January 2018. The project will be implemented on the basis of the Estonian Human Genes Research Act.