Skip to main content


  • Article
  • Open Access

Towards a social contract for genomics: property and the public in the 'Biotrust' Model

  • and
Genomics, Society and Policy20051:8

  • Published:


Large-scale genetics cohort studies that link genotypic and phenotypic information hold special promise for clinical medicine, but they demand long-term investment and enduring trust from human research participants. Currently, there are a handful of large-scale studies that aim to succeed where others have failed, seeking to generate significant private-sector investment while preserving long-term interest and trust of studied communities. With project planners looking for new modes of managing such complex collective endeavors, the idea of using a charitable trust structure for genomic biobanks has received increasing scholarly and policy attention. This article clarifies how thorny questions around property rights, the right to withdraw from research, access to materials, and funding might be handled within such a charitable trust structure to help produce a viable participatory framework for genomics.


  • Social Contract
  • Ethical Review Committee
  • Fiduciary Duty
  • Cash Compensation
  • Property Interest