Government target for gene donation still a long way off being met

Former Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE) donating blood at the program's launch in March.
Former Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE) donating blood at the program's launch in March. Source: Silver Gutmann/Ministry of Social Affairs

The government set the goal of collecting 100,000 new blood donation samples from the gene donors by the end of this year, but according to the Estonian Genome Foundation, blood samples have so far been taken from just over 27,000 people, although nearly twice that number have consented to donate.

The government's target of collecting 100,000 blood samples from gene donors by year end is still a long way off being met. So far, only samples from a little over 27,000 people have been received.

The program was launched earlier in the year and samples started to be collected at the beginning of April. The main purpose of the drive has been to profile the 100,000 participants to get a representative cross-section of society in the development of a national, personalized medicine scheme.

The project is under the joint direction of the Ministry of Social Affairs, the National Institute for Health Development (NIHD) and the Estonian Genome Center at the University of Tartu. A reported €5 million was allocated to the initiative.

Data had already been obtained from 50,000 biobank participants, and the aim is to augment that with data a further 100,000 people in the pursuit of better personalized medicine, and therefore better preventive healthcare, in Estonia

Helene Alavere, head of the data collection department of the Estonian Genome Foundation, told daily Postimees that blood donation towards the program need no longer involve standing in long queues.

She added that more than 45,000 residents have given their consent to donate, but that this was naturally not enough and actual samples need to be taken.

Part of the problem is that donation centres are only in major towns at present, which makes it more difficult to reach donors in smaller and more remote areas.

Nonetheless the process for donating a sample is a simple one; larger hospitals and SYNLAB laboratories at various locations are listed in Estonian and Russian on the gene donor website together with working hours. The list is updated regularly.

The process reportedly takes just a few minutes and is open to all residents in Estonia above the age of 18, who have not previously been entered in the gene database and have an Estonian ID code. A donor also needs to have previously signed the consent form.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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