Sanger Institute refutes allegations of misuse of African DNA data from partner institutions

Two investigations by two separate experts found that no wrongdoing took place

Allegations made by a former employee of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, claiming exploitation of African partners’ data, are incorrect based on two separate investigations.

It was alleged that the Institute had sought to exploit the African DNA data from partner institutions by building a research tool to be sold commercially.

In 2018, an independent barrister examined these issues as part of a whistleblowing investigation following complaints and found that no wrongdoing took place.

As part of a robust follow up process, the Institute obtained a further legal opinion from expert intellectual property lawyers who carried out an extensive review relating to the allegations and concluded that Sanger has not been in breach of contract and has not infringed third party intellectual property.

The inaccurate allegations refer to specific research that aimed to support scientific discovery with partners working in Africa. The Sanger Institute has not commercialised any products based on this research and it has not received and will not financially benefit from any revenues.

A spokesperson at the Sanger Institute said: “We greatly value and respect the numerous scientific collaborations we have participated in during the last two decades, in Africa and elsewhere in the world, conducting research to obtain knowledge and insights that may help improve human health. We are committed to such partnerships and strive to work together with all involved with fairness, respect and transparency. Last year, relationships with some African partners in a particular project were disrupted. The cause of concern was a potential commercialisation proposal from an individual working at the Institute at the time. The Institute did not pursue this proposal. Over the last six months, the Sanger Institute has been in contact with the African partners directly to discuss the problems that arose and to avoid similar situations in the future.”

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