US personal genetics company, 23andMe has launched a new Populations Collaborations Programme which will see them collaborating with researchers across the globe with the goal of genotyping people in communities who are underrepresented in genetic research.

According to 23andMe, as part of the programme they will provide financial and scientific support for qualified researchers from academic research institutions in the US to genotype people in communities across Africa, Asia and the Americas. They believe this will help improve the diversity of their data as well as improve genetics research globally.

“Many populations around the world remain missing from genomic databases,” said Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis, Brenna Henn.

“In order to increase representation, DNA sampling often requires serious engagement from academic institutions and local communities, but few funding sources support the necessary field work. 23andMe’s Populations Collaborations Programme provides an exciting new mechanism to improve our understanding of human history and genetic diversity everywhere around the world, while also helping their customers pinpoint their diverse ancestries,” continued Henn.

To participate in the programme participants will have to give their consent to the researchers, who themselves will be overseen by an independent review board from the researchers’ institutions, as well as ethics review boards in the countries where the research is conducted.

“We will give preference to studies that engage local researchers and community members in the project, and we’ll provide additional support for community investments,” said 23andMe in their blog.

In the past 23andMe has worked on a number of other projects with the intention of improving diversity in genetic research. For example, as part of 23andMe’s Roots Into the Future project researchers studied the genetics of diseases impacting African Americans. They also worked on an NIH-funded project to develop a new way to detect disease-causing genetic variants among ethnically mixed populations.

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