23.09.2013

About the transfer of the National DNA Data Bank

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation wishes to provide truthful information related to false versions about the transfer of the National DNA Data Bank (BNDG) to its new headquarters.

Tags BNDG - Barañao
About the transfer of the National DNA Data Bank

Further information about the National DNA Data Bank transfer

Since its creation in 1987, the BNDG was responsible to the National Executive Branch. In the beginning, this dependence dealt with a two party relationship: the then Municipality of the City of Buenos Aires (in the orbit of the National Executive Branch until 1994) provided personnel and physical space in the Laboratory of Immunology of the Hospital Durand, while the National Ministry of Health was responsible for equipment and supplies. Act N° 26548 enacted in 2009 provided the continuance of the original BNDG’s responsibility under the National Executive Branch, but transferred it to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation.

The Association Abuelas (Grandmothers) de Plaza de Mayo and relatives who work at the institution are primarily interested in that the transfer of samples be carried out with the professionalism and transparency as ensured by the Ministry of Science.

Even though the Act N° 23511 enacted in 1987 which created the BNDG provided in its first article that the purpose of the Bank was the "clarification of filiation disputes", all its operational provisions referred mainly to the identification of "missing children or children born in captivity" due to the State terrorism actions that plagued the country until December 10, 1983. Moreover, it also established that the responsibility of the BNDG direction was of the Hospital Durand Immunology Service Chief, because on that date such service had the unique public sector laboratory performing tests wherein genetic identification was formerly based on.

On November 17, 2009, with the enactment of Act N° 26548, the identification of missing people (alive or dead and regardless of age) during State terrorism actions until December 10, 1983 was included in the BNDG’s purpose. However, the Ministry of Science is in favor of the universality of the right to identity and works in various fields in pursue of alternatives meeting such need.

BNDG services for statutory purposes are free. The Act N° 26548 maintains the identification services at no charge as provided in the purpose thereof, and the Ministry of Science is committed to be in compliance with such provision. Once enacted the above mentioned Act, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation of Argentina took the responsibility (until then assumed by the National Ministry of Health) for providing equipment and materials as required by the BNDG direction to continue the genetic identification task prescribed by law without interruption.

As from the regulation of Act N° 26548, we proceeded to build a laboratory and a computer space in the Ministry agencies located at Av. Cordoba 831, nowadays this stage is completed. The purpose of the next stage is to transfer samples, equipment and personnel. Such stage is scientifically coordinated by Dr. Héctor Targovnik and Dr. Víctor Penchaszadeh, who participated in the regulation of Act N° 26,548 and who also have an extensive and prestigious track record. Dr. Penchaszadeh, in turn, played a central role in the BNDG creation when it was just a project of Abuelas (Grandmothers) de Plaza de Mayo, a role recognized by all human rights organizations related to the topic.

As from Act N° 26548, supported by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, the Ministry of Science is responsible for the transfer of all those BNDG elements to its new headquarters with all security guarantees, chain of custody, guarantee of discretion and confidentiality and participation of supervisors in accordance with international standards governing such procedures, which prevents any possibility of sample loss, tampering or future manipulation.

The technical and scientific coordination of the transfer has the sole objectives: a) compliance with the law and that all BNDG assets allocated to the functions provided by Act N° 26548 (biological samples, genetic profiles, databases, files and folios, equipment, supplies, etc.) be transferred to the new headquarters maintaining the chain of custody and ensuring maximum security, confidentiality and reserve of the genetic information; and b) that the BNDG be able to work even better than today in its new headquarters retaining all employees that decide to continue, in positions equivalent to the positions held as employees of the City of Buenos Aires being recognized in such a case their seniority and the rest of their labor rights.

Act N° 26548 provides that in addition to the genetic filiation identification, another BNDG function is conducting scientific research on the subject matter. From 1987 to date there has been no research on the matter.

Regarding to the suspicions of the false positive increase due to the crossing of the National Genetic Data Bank databases with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) databases, it is important to note that such suspicions are scientifically unfounded. The databases crossing will be made between the EAAF standards and the BNDG standards related to this type of analysis and in compliance with the Decree 38/2013 regulated by Act N° 26548 which is part of a concern expressed by the human rights agencies. It should be noted that this database crossing will be performed at any venue in which the BNDG operates, even if this remained operative longer in the Durand Hospital.

Also, suggestions about commercial use of data stored in the BNDG are wrong. It is essential to correlate DNA sequences with clinical data to make it possible. Clinical information is not provided in the BNDG records and therefore samples have no value from the genomics standpoint. Information stored only allows the establishment of blood relationship.

On the other hand, it is informed that only senior management positions will be covered through a public tender. Transfer coordinators currently working are not allowed to participate as candidates to lead the Bank or as juries, ensuring full transparency in the process. The high security measures to be applied at the new headquarter will exceed those currently applied at the Durand Hospital headquarters. The Ministry is also committed to reach a higher degree of efficiency than currently exists.

It should be further noted that the Association Abuelas (Grandmothers) de Plaza de Mayo said in a press communication last week, that grandmothers and relatives who work at the institution are primarily interested in that the transfer of samples be carried out with the professionalism and transparency as ensured by the Ministry of Science, with whom they have been working along this process. In this sense, the institution presided over by Ms. Estela de Carlotto visited the new BNDG headquarters and expressed her satisfaction at a press conference.

In the course of this week a report replying to the request made from such institution related to the BNDG operation and transfer will be sent to the Honorable Senate, while another report will be sent to the National Court in Administrative Matters No. 1 in charge of the judge at first instance Ernesto Marinelli, who also requested such information.

Finally, it is important to note that BNDG public information is available on the Ministry of Science website: www.mincyt.gob.ar

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