Frequently Asked Questions
Here we answer some of the most common questions people ask about the work that we do at Variant Bio. We are committed to operating in a way that is fully transparent, and will continue to update this page as more questions arise.
How do study participants benefit?
We at Variant work to ensure that the communities we partner with benefit in ways that are relevant to them. To that end, we co-design our projects, including short- and long-term benefit sharing plans, with each community depending on their specific needs and priorities.
All projects, small and large, qualify for Variant's short-term benefits. Short-term benefits go to local initiatives that support capacity building, education, healthcare, or sustainable development. For example, we have supported our partners in ramping up their local sequencing efforts, trained students and physicians in genetics and biostatistics, and co-sponsored the first Indigenous genomics conference run by the SING Consortium Aotearoa (New Zealand).
Most projects larger than pilot studies also qualify for Variant's long-term benefits. Our long-term benefits are tied to Variant Bio’s future revenue and support similar initiatives to those of short-term benefits. These benefits are based on Variant’s economic performance, so if we succeed our partners will share in our success. Our partner communities will receive 4% revenue sharing plus 4% equity allocation, whether or not their genomes contribute to novel discoveries, meaning if Variant develops a drug the financial benefits will be shared with all our active partners.
For more information, please refer to our benefit sharing pledge, or this summary of it.
What is the ethical review process for projects?
The ethical review process for each of our projects is two-fold. It involves evaluation by: 1) Variant Bio’s external, independent Ethics Advisory Board and 2) the appropriate local or regional human research review board (or boards) where the study is set to take place.
Variant Bio’s Ethics Advisory Board is made up of an international panel of experts from the fields of Bioethics, Indigenous Studies, Human Genetics, and Cultural Anthropology. For every project, before we submit our protocols to local or regional human research boards, our own Ethics Advisory Board evaluates the study design, consent form and implementation process, engagement and communication plan, and incentive plan. This two-part approach ensures that our projects meet the highest ethical standards for biomedical research.
What is Variant Bio’s business model?
We are developing therapeutics to treat disease, not to genetically “improve” or “edit” humans.
We don’t sell participants’ genetic data or patent it in any form. Our business model is to analyze the data to develop life-saving therapeutics, not sell the data to pharmaceutical companies.
Is Variant Bio looking for "better" humans?
There is no such thing as a perfect or better human. Every individual has a unique combination of genetic variation that protects them from some diseases as well as makes them more susceptible to others. We study the genes of people with exceptional health-related traits in order to improve global health.
What happens to the DNA of study participants?
Variant Bio does not claim any authorship or ownership of genes of any group we work with. Any study participant can withdraw from the study at any time and their genetic data will be immediately deleted. Variant will also not sell the genetic data to anyone or patent it in any form. This data will be used purely for identifying genetic variants related to health.
It is also very important to us that we treat the biological samples that are donated to us to study with the utmost respect. Before any sampling takes place, we work with each community to understand their cultural practices and beliefs, which then dictate the chain of custody for all biological samples and related materials. After the biological samples have been studied, we return or destroy the samples in accordance with each community’s wishes/instructions.
Is Variant Bio doing research on COVID-19?
Variant Bio does not focus on COVID-19 cures, nor do we research COVID-19 infection in anyone. Generally speaking, we are focused on common diseases with a genetic basis.
Who is on the Variant Bio team?
Variant Bio’s team includes molecular biologists and geneticists, ethicists, anthropologists, and international development professionals.
How can I work with Variant Bio?