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Free Genetic Testing Offered to 100,000 Estonians

The Baltic country aims to develop personalized medical reports available to healthcare practitioners through national online portal.

3 April 2018

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In a move likely to further cement its position as one of the leading digital societies in the world, Estonia has launched a recruitment program for 100,000 of its residents willing to have their genome mapped, according to a press release from the University of Tartu’s Institute of Genomics.


The new participants will join more than 50,000 other Estonians who consented to offer DNA samples to the country’s national biobank through a program that began in 2000, The Atlantic writes.


The aim of the program, which is a joint project of the Ministry of Social Affairs, the National Institute for Health Development, and the Estonian Genome Center of the University of Tartu, is to “boost the development of personalized medicine in Estonia and thus contribute to the advancement of preventive healthcare," said Jevgeni Ossinovski, the minister of health and labor.

Unlike the other more than 120 biobanks across the world, the Estonian one aims to develop personalized medicine instead of focusing on genome research. The plan is for these DNA volunteers to then receive information through a family doctor on their genetic risk for specific diseases and advice on how to adjust their lifestyle to stay healthy, writes Futurism, a technology website.


Another difference is that the activities of the Estonian biobanking system are strictly regulated. Passed in 2000, the Estonian Human Genes Research Act establishes the confidentiality of the identity of gene donors, gives them the right to consent for participation in studies, and ensures that the data is “processed in compliance with the highest standards of data protection.”



  • In other countries, such as the United States, it is often unclear whether insurance companies will cover such testing, leading many to use do-at-home kits, which, critics say, sometimes offer incorrect results, and, in any case, no advice from a specialist. “Though some experts have cautioned that free genetic advice could cause unnecessary alarm, having results delivered through a doctor leaves patients much less prone to misinformation and unnecessary freak-outs than if they tried to interpret those results themselves,” says Futurism. 


  • In other news from the Baltics, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid and Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis are meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump today. According to a senior Lithuanian official who preferred to remain anonymous, the Baltic leaders plan to ask Washington to send Patriot long-range anti-aircraft missiles more frequently for war games, and also to become a part of NATO’s larger European anti-missile shield, EURACTIV.COM with AFP report.


  • I hope that the United States and other allies understand that the airspace of the Baltic states must be better protected and defended,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said before the visit, adding that it was “important that [U.S. troops] are here on permanent rotational basis in all Baltic states.


  • A bill to establish the world’s first data embassy in Luxembourg passed through the first reading in the Estonian parliament in February. The data embassy will host Estonian data and information systems in Luxembourg’s high-security national data center.

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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