A proposal on the first Japanese practical guidance for the return of individual genomic results in research settings


Large-scale, low-cost genome analysis has become possible with next-generation sequencing technology, which is currently used in research and clinical practice. Many attempts of returning individual genomic results have commenced not only in clinical practice, but also in research settings of several countries. In Japan, the government guidelines include a section on the disclosure of genetic information regarding genome analysis in research. However, no practical guidance for the return of individual genomic results in research settings (ROGRR) currently exists. We propose practical guidance regarding ROGRR in Japan based on extensive research, including a literature review of related previous studies, an examination of the relevant legislation in Japan, and interviews with stakeholders. The guidance we developed consists of “Points to consider” and “Issues for further discussion and consideration.” The “Points to consider” were divided into five parts, from preliminary review before discussion of policy, to the actual return and follow-up process, in the order of the assumed ROGRR process. It is anticipated that a situation will arise where numerous research projects will consider ROGRR carefully and realistically in the future, and in the process of drafting such practical guidance, various issues requiring continuous discussion will emerge. The necessities of continuous discussion concerning ROGRR in Japan’s context is increasing, particularly in terms of the ethical, legal, and social implications. We believe such discussions and considerations may contribute to creating a new system that will increase availability of personalized medicine and prevention using genetic information, allowing them to become useful to the broader population.

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The authors thank all the interviewees who led the Japanese genome studies and were involved in genomic medicine. The work is supported by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (grant number 18km0405301). FN and YA are supported by the Tohoku Medical Megabank Project through the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan; by the Reconstruction Agency, Japan; by Japan Agency for Medical Research and the Development; grant numbers JP19km0105001 and JP19km0105002. Authors also thanked all members of the Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization, Tohoku University, and the Department of Biomedical Ethics and Public Policy, at Osaka University.

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Correspondence to Fuji Nagami.

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Aizawa, Y., Nagami, F., Ohashi, N. et al. A proposal on the first Japanese practical guidance for the return of individual genomic results in research settings. J Hum Genet 65, 251–261 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s10038-019-0697-y

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