Genetic Databases: Intellectual Property and Individual Privacy

Wednesday 20th February 2008, 6:30 pm

Speaker: Professor Graeme Laurie, University of Edinburgh

Venue: The Royal Scots Club Hepburn Suite, 30 Abercromby Place, Edinburgh EH3 6QE - map and direction.

This talk is free of charge and no reservation is required. Non members are most welcome. Refreshments available from 6:10 pm.


In the wake of the mapping of the human genome, attention has turned to the application of this knowledge for future research and clinical purposes. We have thus witnessed the rise of the population genetic database, with numerous projects around the world centred on the common objective of better understanding gene/environment interaction. Two examples in the United Kingdom are UK Biobank and Generation Scotland. Each aims to build a resource for future research and the common good using genetic material and data collected from hundreds of thousands of individuals. This presentation examines the legal and ethical issues associated with these projects, and more particularly the privacy implications of storage and use of genetic material. It will also look to the future when the resources will be open for research access and questions of ownership and intellectual property will arise: how will the tensions between intellectual property and individual privacy be resolved?

About the speaker


Graeme Laurie is Professor of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh and Director of SCRIPT - a law and technology research centre sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and based in the Edinburgh Law School. His research interests concern the relationship between law and medical technologies, and he is author of a number of publications including 'Genetic Privacy', Cambridge University Press, 2002, 'Law and Medical Ethics', 7th Edition, Oxford University Press, 2006 (with JK Mason), and 'Contemporary Intellectual Property: Law & Policy', Oxford University Press, 2007 (with HL MacQueen and C Waelde). Beyond the academy, he is Chair of the UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Council and Chair of the Privacy Advisory Committee for Scotland.

(Photo courtesy Wellcome Trust)