The issues raised by the increasing use of large-scale biological sample collection for genetic research are profound. They touch on critical issues of human rights, personal identity, the future conduct of biomedical research, new forms of property rights and the proper relationship between academia and commerce. At the same time, and partly in response to these new scientific developments, public policy is in the process of transition. The MRC and the professional bodies are currently formulating new guidelines relating to the conduct of medical research, and important legal rulings affecting this area are pending. Some of the issues raised by sample collections will be considered by a House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry due to start later this year. However, it seems highly likely that further important policy initiatives in this field will be taken at both national and European level in the coming months.
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