Pan American Health Organization regional meeting on human genomic research for health held

The regional meeting on Human Genomics for Health: Enhancing the Impact of Effective Research was convened in Brasilia, Brazil, on 15–16 May 2024 by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) with the support of WHO headquarters, the PAHO/WHO country office in Brazil and the Department of Science and Technology (DECIT), Ministry of Health, Brazil.

The meeting gathered around 100 representatives from Member States, experts and observers from across the genomics and precision health ecosystem, from 19 countries in the region.

Genomics is an advancing field that presents novel strategies for attaining public health goals. This significant regional event drew inspiration from the 2022 WHO Science Council Report highlighting the vast potential of genomics and the critical need to accelerate access to genomic research and technologies for all countries. The event was organized in collaboration with the newly established Genomics Programme of Work within the Science Division at WHO headquarters.

The regional meeting’s objectives were to:

  • raise awareness among Member States and regional stakeholders about the WHO Science Council report;
  • share experiences and best practices in the implementation of genomic evidence to improve precision in the practice of medicine at an individual level, and to inform public health strategies at a population level;
  • identify challenges and feasible strategies for the implementation of genomics in practice and for conducting genomic research in Member States; and
  • create opportunities for linkages and collaborations.

To enhance communication and encourage the exchange of experiences and ideas among participants, the meeting was held in Spanish, English and Portuguese and provided simultaneous interpretation.

Participants represented a broad spectrum of disciplines and contributed their expertise across relevant fields of research, science policy, bioethics national genomic initiatives, cancer, rare diseases and congenital disorders and more. The assembly also included members of the Technical Advisory Group on Genomics from the Region of the Americas.

The meeting delved into experiences related to conducting research and applying genomics in clinical medicine and public health. Participants shared their insights on implementing genomic technologies, highlighting both successes and obstacles encountered in their work. Detailed discussions were held on the various challenges faced in the field, on the countries’ priorities and on the opportunities for advancement of genomics.

Additionally, there was a strong emphasis on the potential for collaborative efforts and the enhancement of partnerships within the region. Participants explored avenues for cooperation, recognizing that strengthening these alliances is crucial for the growth and integration of genomics into public health and clinical practice. The discussions underscored the importance of building robust networks to support ongoing research, facilitate the sharing of resources and expertise, and promote the equitable dissemination of genomic technologies.

The meeting exposed the broad and varied expertise in human genomics across the region, reflecting the interests and priorities of Member States in this field. They shed light on the opportunities and challenges involved in advancing human genomics research and implementation in the Americas. The final discussions focused on key actions and recommendations to enhance equitable and effective genomic research in the region, outlining a path forward for the Americas. The findings underscore the necessity for coordinated action at national, regional and global levels to equitably harness the transformative potential of human genomics.

Priority activities and recommendations discussed during the meeting included the need to:

  • conduct an in-depth analysis of the local research landscape in human genomics to identify opportunities for accelerated advancements and innovation;
  • establish regional expert advisory panels to provide guidance and foster coordination for collaborative activities, ensuring alignment with global best practices;
  • develop comprehensive, evidence-based advocacy materials that clearly demonstrate the economic and societal benefits of investing in human genomic research, including detailed cost-benefit analyses; and
  • implement robust strategies to strengthen the workforce, upgrade infrastructure, and enhance regulatory frameworks, thereby creating a supportive environment for the growth and development of human genomics.

/Public Release. View in full here.