Genomics and Global Health

Genomics and Global Health

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At the end of the last Millennium, the UN General Assembly adopted a document called the “Millennium Development Goals”. In the health field, goals were established such as improving maternal health, reducing infant mortality by 2/3 by 2015, and combating diseases such as AIDS and malaria.

At the end of the last Millennium, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a document called the "Millennium Development Goals", where the countries belonging to the United Nations pledged to meet certain objectives to reduce poverty and achieve the sustainable development. In the health field, goals were established such as improving maternal health, reducing infant mortality by 2/3 by 2015, and combating diseases such as AIDS and malaria.

To meet this goal, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan created a series of science and technology task forces. Among them is the genomics and global health group, who have just presented a report entitled "Genomics and Global Health".

Below is a brief analysis of what this report proposes.

The report "Genomics and Global Health", prepared by the working group on genomics and global health, which is part of the Millennium Project, proposes to achieve the health-related millennium goals (reduce infant mortality by 2/3 parts to the year 2015 and combat diseases such as AIDS and malaria) through genomics and other related molecular techniques, through so-called public - private partnerships, through which industrialized countries sponsor their own companies to put health plans run, activities that have traditionally been carried out by the States. They are a way of privatizing public health.

Genomics includes sequencing the DNA (genetic information) of living organisms and bioinformatics. The sequencing of the human genome was completed in April 2003, and was celebrated as a step as important for humanity as the arrival of man on the Moon (if that ever happened). The project involved scientists from 20 countries and cost $ 3 billion in public funds. The genome project ended earlier than scheduled due to competition with a private company Celera (whose scientists originally worked for the public consortium), who developed a faster sequencing method. Sure, Celera's technology is patented, and you have to pay to access the information.

This report proposes that the benefits of genomics can contribute to the poor countries of the world, to reach the millennium goals in the field of health. The underlying idea of ​​the report is that structural aspects that generate the main health problems in the Third World, such as the lack of health and sanitation infrastructure, limitations in access to medicines, malnutrition, etc. it can be solved with technology. A technology that is additionally patented.

The report also reveals the scientific reductionism of its authors, by proposing genomics as a solution to health problems, ignoring that the main causes of maternal and infant mortality are not genetic but structural.

The study identifies ten technologies that could help meet the health-related millennium goals:

Molecular diagnosis:

It is a tool that allows diagnosing infectious diseases by identifying the presence or absence of molecules produced by pathogens in the blood of patients. Although this method can be useful, the main problem faced by children who die before the age of five from infectious diseases is not a problem of diagnosis, but a lack of access to safe drinking water, adequate medical treatment and others. related problems.

Recombinant vaccines:

To fight diseases such as Hepatitis B and AIDS.

Has the safety of these vaccines been proven? The literature has reported that there are numerous risks related to the use of recombinant vaccines, especially when it comes to vaccines that use naked DNA. For more information on this topic you can find it at (


What is a technology for decontamination of water, soil, etc. through the use of microorganisms. The impacts of these technologies are not sufficiently established, and it would be much cheaper not to pollute the environment.

Genome sequencing of pathogens:

This method is identified as an important instrument to combat HIV / AIDS, so that the biochemical functioning of this pathogen can be known. This is probably true, but the medicine that exists at the moment to alleviate the effects of this disease is patented, and countries with a high incidence of this disease, especially African nations, have been involved in fierce disputes within the WTO for them. allow the granting of compulsory licenses or parallel imports of these drugs, without any success so far. There is no certainty that the genomic research carried out in relation to this disease will not be “protected” by some form of intellectual property, which will favor the companies that carry the patent.

Protection mechanisms against sexually transmitted diseases, controlled by women:

For example through the development of vaginal microbicides. The report mentions an active principle found in a blue-green algae, which could be introduced into a vaginal bacteria through genetic engineering and used as a microbicide against HIV. Although these types of products could easily be controlled by women, ultimately, it is the companies that produce these compounds, which will possibly be patented, that will control and benefit from these technologies. On the other hand, has the safety of introducing transgenic bacteria into a woman's vagina been proven?


It is the application of computer programs to analyze large amounts of biological data, and put in databases that can be used by researchers. Bioinformatics transform computer algorithms into biological data. In recent negotiations on intellectual property, the patenting of algorithms is being proposed, which would mean that this technology could be even more controlled by transnational companies

There is around 33 billion data on DNA sequences in the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the National Institute of Health of the United States, and it exchanges information with similar centers in Japan and the European Union. Can this information benefit the poor of the Third World? The AnoDB database contains genomic and biological information on Anopheles. The idea is to develop new medicines and vaccines against this deadly disease. But again, who can guarantee that these drugs will not be patented, and ultimately benefit the companies that control these technologies?

The proposed crops include the controversial golden rice and other crops that are being tested in different research centers around the world. Faced with the problem of malnutrition caused by problems related, for example, by the loss of food sovereignty, by allocating the lands that were previously dedicated to food production, etc. In order to produce export products and other similar structural problems, the introduction of GMOs is proposed, despite the many widely documented health risks. These risks are exacerbated in undernourished populations like those proposed to help through the Millennium Goals.

Therapeutic recombinant proteins:

Using recombinant technologies, researchers can insert human genes into bacteria or yeast, so that they produce therapeutic proteins. Bacteria such as Escherichia coli are used for this. But much more efficient is the use of mammalian cells. However, it is very difficult to maintain mammalian cells under in vitro conditions, so it is proposed to develop transgenic animals specifically designed for this purpose. They could produce these proteins for example in milk, urine or semen. The report also sees good possibilities in the much criticized pharmaceutical crops: corn or tobacco that produce human proteins.

On the other hand, has the safety of these proteins been tested before they are massively introduced into the Third World?

Combinatorial chemicals:

Due to the misuse and abuse of antibiotics, there are pathogens that have developed resistance to a wide range of antibiotics. Combinatorial chemicals have been designed for these kinds of phenomena. Combinatorial methods are automated techniques for making many different types of chemical compounds. The collection of compounds obtained known as libraries are biologically evaluated to know their therapeutic value. According to the report, these techniques use robots to make the preparations and evaluate the compounds.

Are these techniques adapted to the health needs of the Third World?

Once the report describes the different technologies related to genomics and their potential for the Third World, it proposes what kind of governance is needed to implement a Global Genomics Plan.

The idea is to have a global network of concerned individuals coming from different sectors such as industry, non-governmental and governmental organizations, who would establish a bottom-up consultation mechanism, public-private partnerships, alliances, networks and coalitions, in the field of genomics and health (like other already existing and widely criticized such as NEPAD, which is an initiative for development in Africa).

Among the tasks of this great coalition for genomics, among others, would be:

promote the use of genomics
promote the participation of different actors
design financial initiatives for public and private initiatives for the development of genomics, that is, seek financing for private companies so that later they can profit from the poor, and in the name of public health
examine intellectual property laws and other ethical and legal considerations, to explore different models of intellectual property, in such a way that genomics fulfills its social function (a model that does not recognize intellectual property is not proposed)

It is recommended that countries should build their national capacities in the field of genomics through:

Strengthen academic institutions and public research, to create a more solid scientific base in the country. Although this is a very important objective, the question is whether genomics constitutes a research priority to improve the health of our countries.
Train people to create human capital capable of adapting, using and innovating biotechnologies. At this point we must also ask ourselves if this is the priority of our countries
Promote international and national cooperation, to create new channels for the exchange of knowledge and trade (in the field of genomics and biotechnology, of course)
Improve the political environment (through, for example, laws and regulations on intellectual property), to encourage the development of capacities in the country. This means that all the potential that genomics could have (although many of these technologies have been questioned from the point of view of their risks to health and the environment) would be subject to intellectual property rights, and therefore, controlled by the companies that carry these patents
Strengthen the development of the private sector and encourage this sector to address problems related to the health problems of the population and strengthen public and private relations to create a new field of biotechnological goods and services. What is being raised here is the privatization of public health, and in general it is a call for poor Third World states to use public funds to develop biotechnology and genomics in their countries, so that they ultimately benefit. private company.

In short, after reading these proposals on global health and genomics, we wonder if the United Nations is seriously committed to the task of meeting the millennium goals, which means reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development for the year 2015, as all nations agreed, or if it is yet another mechanism to favor a handful of transnational companies that want to expand their profits on behalf of the poor, while putting the most vulnerable populations of the Third World at risk, through the technologies proposed in this report.

Network for a GMO-Free Latin America (RALLT)

Video: Population Genetics in an Era of Genomic Health - Eimear Kenny (June 2022).


  1. Marlowe

    It is evident you have been wrong ...

  2. Rafas

    I suggest you go to the site, where there are many articles on the topic that interests you.

  3. Voodoocage

    Very useful idea

  4. Abdul-Alim

    I fully share her point of view. I think this is a great idea. I agree with you.

  5. Mikalabar

    There is something in this and the idea is good, I support it.

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