RERF held the second meeting of its External Advisory Committee on Biosample Usage in a hybrid, in-person/online format on August 23. Following the meeting, a press conference was convened to report to the media details of the opinions expressed by the committee.
The external advisory committee was established to allow appropriate use in research of biosamples donated by A-bomb survivors and their children and stored at RERF, with special consideration paid to ethical and social issues related to biosample research in light of the medical and social situations in which A-bomb survivors and their families have been placed. With that in mind, academic specialists in relevant fields, participants in RERF studies, and members of the general public have the opportunity to listen to detailed explanations about the specific research conducted at RERF using the biosamples and to express their opinions and concerns about potential ethical or societal issues that might result from the studies.
A similar committee of external partners, the Stakeholder Committee on Genome Sequencing Analysis for A-bomb Survivors’ Children, was convened between August 2021 and August 2022 to discuss potential genetic effects of radiation exposure. The recent meeting of the External Advisory Committee on Biosample Usage featured an explanation by the lead scientist of a proposed research project, as well as general topics about the significance of genome analysis using the biosamples. The advisory committee meetings provide RERF scientists with the opportunity to explain research projects to committee members, who include A-bomb survivors and citizens.
The meeting began with an explanation about the proposed research “Whole genome and genetic analysis study to elucidate genetic effects,” which is a collaborative study involving RERF, RIKEN (a research institute in Japan’s Saitama Prefecture), and the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI; located in Washington, D.C.). Committee members posed questions and comments about the study, with one concern expressed being how RERF planned to communicate accurate and understandable research results in the event that genetic effects were discovered, given the sensitive nature of the information. RERF agreed that transparent communication with the media and the public was a crucial issue requiring ongoing and careful consideration. Another recommendation from the committee was that RERF intentionally meet with the public to explain genetics-related research and its implications. Finally, RERF was encouraged to commence the research in timely fashion to give back the results of such research for the benefit the A-bomb survivors, their children, and the public.
Following the stakeholder committee meeting, Hiroshima and Nagasaki RERF hosted a press conference, with nine media representatives in attendance. Questions posed by the press included those about the makeup and expected start of the study as well as about RERF’s plans for releasing the research results to the public.