(Guest post from Maeghan Toews, GE3LS Coordinator for Genome Alberta, and a Research Associate with the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta)
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada recently released a statement on the use of genetic test results by insurance companies offering health and life insurance. The Privacy Commissioner examined this issue in the context of the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act(PIPEDA), which governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by organizations engaged in commercial activity. PIPEDA limits the use of personal information to “purposes that a reasonable person would consider are appropriate in the circumstances” (section 5(3)). In the statement, the Privacy Commissioner applied a legal test derived from this provision and concluded that the use of information obtained through genetic testing by health and life insurance companies is not justified at this time.
There are several reasons why we have science education included in our school curriculums.
“The senior high science programs will help all students attain the scientific awareness needed to function as effective members of society. Students will be able to pursue further studies and careers in science, and come to a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.” Alberta Education
Some of our students will indeed go on to careers in science and technology. A few will even become leaders in their field and make significant contributions. Yes, we want to develop students to become future innovators, but all of our students will go on to be impacted by the democratic decisions our society makes. All of our students, for example, will be influenced by the statements made by the Privacy Commissioner when it comes to protection of the collection, use and disclosure of personal health and genetic information.
It is for this reason that I highly recommend that teachers make use of blogs like the one written by Maeghan Toews for Genome Alberta. She tells us about the Privacy Commissioner calling upon the insurance industry to refrain from asking for genetic test results. Her blog contains a great deal of information that will lead to a lively class discussion.
(guest post from Alin Charriere. He holds an M.A. in Public Administration from Carleton University, and is a former policy intern with Genome Canada)
For someone many thought would be hesitant to rock the boat, Canada’s new Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien has been making some waves.
On Friday, Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner released a policy statement asking life and health insurers not to request genetic test results in cases where an insurance applicant has already undergone genetic testing. This proposes to extend a current voluntary moratorium whereby the Canadian insurance industry has agreed not to request applicants to undergo genetic testing when underwriting new insurance policies.
The issue of genetic privacy has been on the public radar screen for some time now and genetic testing has been available for a number of years in Canada, so what prompted the Privacy Commissioner to act now?
Arjun Nair describes his project "A Computational Analysis of Multiple Sclerosis: A Novel Diagnostic Procedure". His project was the winner of the Genome Alberta Award at the Calgary Youth Regional Science Fair. Arjun was also a Gold medalist at the 2014 Canada-Wide Science Fair. His project earned him $29,200 in cash awards and scholarships including:
The Actuarial Foundation of Canada Award
The Manning Innovation Achievement Award
The Manning Young Canadian Innovation Award
Statistical Society of Canada Award
Arjun has been a finalist at the Canada-Wide Science Fair three times, and he was part of Team Canada at the Intel - ISEF in 2013.
A few years ago at BIO in Atlanta I was part of a 'Think & Drink' panel discussion that included Mary Canady, founder of Comprendia a life sciences marketing company here in San Diego. With BIO 2014 in sunny San Diego it was no surprise that Mary was at the event and when I saw her we started talking about, what else, social media. We both attended the Monday session "Like, Share, and Tweet Your Way to Change" and talked about whether social media had made any real inroads into the biotech sector since our panel session in Atlanta.
The good news is that the use of social media in the life science in general is increasing though it probably is still considered an emerging trend. A simple look around the online world surrounding BIO this year shows a leap forward since our panel. More blogs, more tweets, more Instagram pictures. Considering the highly regulated nature of much of the biotech industry it is also good news to see companies such as Eli Lily loosen things up with its @LillyPad Twitter account and associated website. They even have a Canadian @LillyPadCA account and site!The flipside is that social media use in biotech or even science in general is not keeping pace. At least not from the scientists or the industry.
If your country is spending upwards of $79 million (US) on healthcare and 80% of the medications used by the population are imported, then you have to start considering the options. In fact in the UAE healthcare expenditure in per capita terms, is among the top 20 in the world. While there are many reasons the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are trying to boost their bioeconomy, such health care costs are certainly a major motivating factor.
With a young and increasingly well educated workforce and a strong financial base in the UAE for instance (think of all that oil... and a GDP of $383 billion ), the area is well positioned to strengthen its biotech sector.