Chances and risks of commercial DNA testing

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As DNA analysis is becoming less and less expensive, genetic tests are becoming more and more accessible. However, their commercialization raises technical, legal and societal issues. At the end of 2020, TA-SWISS, the centre of excellence for Technology Assessment incorporated in the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, published a study on this topic.

The researchers draw attention in particular to the blurred delimitation between so-called lifestyle genetic testing and medical tests, the abuse of parentage tests and the risks of using DNA phenotyping in criminal investigations. The study published by TA-SWISS is available as a report (German), a summary (English) or a short explanatory film. Download the summary below or visit the TA-SWISS website.

Download the summary (PDF)

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New members in the bodies of the SAMS

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At the beginning of the year, several changes are taking place in the different bodies of the SAMS. Prof. Paul Hoff (Zurich) becomes president of the Central Ethics Committee and ex officio member of the Executive Board. He succeeds Prof. Jürg Steiger (Basel) in both functions. In addition, the SAMS Senate elected seven new individual and honorary members by correspondence in November 2020.

A further change awaits the SAMS Executive Board from 1 February 2021. Dr. Jürg Schlup, ex officio member as President of the FMH, will hand over to his successor, Dr. Yvonne Gilli. The SAMS General Secretariat cordially welcomes the new members. Further details on the organisation of the Academy can be found in the "Portrait" menu.

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No Greta but a virus instead

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In December 2019, the SAMS wished to find a Greta for the health system for the coming year. Unfortunately, fate decided otherwise. The last News of the year 2020 mentions the Academy's commitment to set common rules in the event of a shortage of resources in intensive care and is dedicated to the nursing, medical, administrative and technical staff at the front since March.

The General Secretariat of the SAMS will be closed between Christmas and New Year. In case of emergency, you can reach us by e-mail. Despite the circumstances, we wish you a happy holiday season and all the best for 2021.

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SPHN: second funding period 2021–2024 and new fact-sheet

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The Swiss Personalized Health Network (SPHN) is a national initiative to improve the accessibility of health-related data for research. Since its launch in 2017, SPHN has developed numerous infrastructures, technologies and methods to enable research with large sets of sensitive data in a responsible, ethical and legal manner. Following the completion of the first funding period, the federal government has confirmed funding for a continuation from 2021 to 2024.

Together with the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, the SAMS is responsible for the implementation of the SPHN initiative. The Confederation plans to invest CHF 66.9 million for the second SPHN funding period from 2021 to 2024. The focus will lie on real-world implementation and consolidation of SPHN infrastructures and on harmonized standards, processes and principles for data sharing. SPHN further plans to lay the foundation for a sustainable, independent national center for biomedical and health research data. A new fact-sheet provides an overview of the status of SPHN at the end of the first funding period.

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Decisions on cardiopulmonary resuscitation: public consultation launched

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CPR decisions and their consequences involve considerable stress for all concerned. The SAMS is launching today the three-month public consultation on the revised medical-ethical guidelines which were first published in 2008. Comments can be submitted using the form provided until 11 March 2021.

The updated text, which has been approved by the SAMS’ Central Ethics Committee, Executive Board and Senate, is based on the current state of scientific knowledge and considers developments since the last update of the guidelines, e.g. the use of extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It also takes into account recent social developments, such as Resuscitation-No-Stamp, tattoos or or the consideration of Advanced Care Planning. All necessary documents for a statement can be found on our website.

Link to the consultation



KZS Fund: five Seed Grants for young researchers in biomedical ethics

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The 2020 call for applications for the Käthe-Zingg-Schwichtenberg Fund (KZS Fund) was thematically open and aimed at young researchers in the field of biomedical ethics. Out of the 26 submitted applications, five were retained for funding.

Five Seed Grants for a total amount of 236 000 francs will allow grantees to explore novel research ideas, to realize a small, independent pilot project and/or to prepare their own project proposal to be submitted to a larger funding agency. The synopsis below (pdf) provides an overview of all supported projects by the KZS Fund. The next call will be launched in spring 2021, provided that dividend yields are sufficient.

Synopsis of funded projects (PDF)

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Stern-Gattiker Prize: The SAMS recognises two female role models

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With the Stern-Gattiker Prize, the SAMS is making female role models more visible, so as to motivate young women to pursue an academic career. This year, the prize has been awarded to Professor Sophie de Seigneux Matthey (Genève) and Professor Sara C. Meyer (Basel).

To ensure that sufficient medical scientists are available over the medium and longer term, and to improve the gender balance of teaching staff, it is essential that more women pursue a career in academic medicine. To enhance the visibility of female role models, the SAMS has established the Stern-Gattiker Prize. Both of the prizewinners 2020 hold SNSF professorships and are research team leaders and senior physicians – Professor de Seigneux Matthey at the Nephrology Division of Geneva University Hospital (HUG), Professor Meyer at the Hematology Department of Basel University Hospital (USB). Further information can be found in the media release published today.

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Press releases



Thank you, Michelle Salathé, for almost two decades at the SAMS

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Michelle Salathé, Head of the Ethics Department since 2001, is one of the people who have had a decisive influence on the SAMS. For almost two decades she has seen everything, heard everything and remembered so much that she is considered the institutional memory of the SAMS. She has worked tirelessly to solve the many ethical questions that arise in medical research, in practice and for society. We thank Michelle Salathé from the bottom of our hearts for her many years of great commitment.

Ethical issues, together with the promotion of research and young researchers, have always been a core area of the SAMS. We will miss Michelle Salathé's comprehensive understanding of medical ethics, her legal skills, the quality of her network and her diplomatic skills. In September she will hand over the management of the department to her successor Thomas Gruberski. The function of Deputy Secretary General will be taken over by Franziska Egli, Head of Communication, as of 1 October. Discover all the faces of the SAMS General Secretariat on our website and read the interview with Michelle Salathé in the SAMS Bulletin.

Download the interview (French) (PDF)

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