DNA technology has great potential to improve healthcare and public health. This is one of the findings of expert consultations that RIVM conducted with healthcare providers, researchers, patient representatives, product developers and other stakeholders. Among other things, those consulted find that the technology could be used to enable earlier and better detection and treatment of cancer, particularly hereditary types.
However, the experts add that more knowledge is needed about the links between DNA and health and how advances in DNA technology can enhance health. We also need a clearer understanding of what society finds desirable.
In line with public demand
The consulted experts find it important that the application of DNA technology matches societal needs. Public- values and demands must come first and citizens should be able to choose for themselves which applications they find desirable. At the same time, there are developments in healthcare and society – such as digitisation and an increasing focus on prevention – which must be taken into account with any application of DNA technology.
The stakeholders emphasise that the use of DNA technology should be subject to specific requirements. This is because DNA technology touches on personal as well as societal issues. Not everyone wants to be confronted with information about their own or family members’ DNA, or wants to make personal health information available for research. At the same time, research depends on collecting and sharing data. Therefore, some of the most frequently mentioned requirements to develop and apply DNA technology were collaboration, direction and legislation and regulation.
About the study
DNA technology is developing rapidly. Technological advances are expanding our understanding of the links between DNA and diseases and treatments. DNA is already being used in patient treatment and disease prevention. Yet, it is still unclear how developments in DNA technology can best be implemented to further enhance health. In view of the breadth and scope of developments, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport will draft a strategy and policy plan. Therefore, ideas from parties involved in the application of DNA technology are required. To this end, RIVM, commissioned by the ministry, consulted 31 parties.