In an article published recently online at Nature Genetics, a group of Nordic researchers, including some of the founders of the Nordic Society of Human Genetics and Precision Medicine, lay out the potential benefits of combining research efforts across the region. One of the key components of the “roadmap” for Nordic precision medicine, according to the authors, was the founding of the Society as a convening group.
Lead author Pål Njølstad of the University of Bergen in Norway and colleagues describe the already significant contributions that Nordic residents have made to previous genetics research (see figure), and extoll the advantages of these countries for gaining insight into health and disease.
Chief among these are:
- A long history of integrated healthcare, patient registries and biobanks, with existing assets of biological samples, patient records and longitudinal follow-up
- Population characteristics such as founder effects and stable, traditional societies with homogeneous environmental exposures
- Strong public trust based on a history of social welfare and commitment to research for the public good
- Access to technology and expertise for generating, managing, storing and interpreting genomic and clinical data
A further advantage that the Nordic countries have is that their well-developed and efficient health systems and biotech sectors are well poised to take translate discoveries into clinical care.
“What remains is to unite the wealth of data and biomaterials under a common framework and to make this framework accessible to the research community through federated data-access models,” Njølstad and colleagues write.
Njølstad PR, Andreassen OA, Brunak S, Børglum AD, Dillner J, Esko T, Franks PW, Freimer N, Groop L, Heimer H, Hougaard DM, Hovig E, Hveem K, Jalanko A, Kaprio J, Knudsen GP, Melbye M, Metspalu A, Mortensen PB, Palmgren J, Palotie A, Reed W, Stefánsson H, Stitziel NO, Sullivan PF, Thorsteinsdóttir U, Vaudel M, Vuorio E, Werge T, Stoltenberg C, Stefánsson K. Roadmap for a precision-medicine initiative in the Nordic region. Nat Genet. 2019 Jun;51(6):924-930. Full text