Together with the Ada Lovelace Institute we have published a report highlighting the pressing ethical, legal and social questions surrounding the convergence of AI and genomics.

In recent years, interest in and funding for both for AI and for genomics has grown. The UK Government has made explicit plans to become ‘the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world’, listing AI as one of the five ‘critical technologies’ it believes can make our country a 'scientific superpower'.

The application of AI to genomics, dubbed ‘AI-powered genomics’ could have several uses in healthcare. For example, analysis of a person’s genetic make-up could be used to inform the ‘personalisation’ of their treatment plan or could assist in predicting the probability of them developing a certain health condition.

Our DNA.I report identifies the latter of these scenarios, ‘AI-powered genomic health prediction’, as an emerging area of development that warrants urgent ethical consideration, especially as analysis suggests it could become a viable technology in the next 5-10 years.

This report captures our early findings from AI and genomics futures, our joint research project with the Ada Lovelace Institute. The next stage of our work will involve public deliberation to better understand the implications of these and test whether we are prepared as a country to navigate the new waters ahead. The findings will be used to develop firmer conclusions and recommendations for policymakers who are setting regulatory agendas for AI and for genomics. We look forward to sharing the final report from this next phase of research in 2024.

Professor Dave Archard, Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, said:

“The combination of AI and genomics offers a great deal of opportunity, such as AI-powered genomic health prediction. With the technologies moving at pace, discussion of the ethical, legal and social implications of introducing them into our society must keep up. In the next phase of this work we will be exploring how the development of AI-powered genomic health prediction can be effectively steered and governed in line with public values and priorities, to make the most of its potential.”