New applications of DNA analysis

DNA test. Doctor Doing Coronavirus covid 19 Test For male Patient. Taking a saliva sample from a man. Collection of mucus from the throat for research in the laboratory.

Just a short time ago, analysing information hidden in our DNA was demanding, slow and expensive. Today, however, we all can have our DNA analysed for a relatively low price. DNA analyses for criminal proceedings have also become less complicated and expensive. All of which generates questions about the actual purpose of these tests and how well our private sphere is being respected.

Opportunities and risks


Links and downloads



Project duration March 2019 to autumn 2020

Project group

  • Dr Erich Griessler (project leader), Alexander Lang (project coordinator), Dr Johannes Starkbaum, Florian Winkler and Milena Wuketich, Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna
  • Dr Brigitte Gschmeidler, Dr Elena Kinz and Simone Schumann, Open Science, Vienna
  • Professor Malte Gruber, Dr Vagias Karavas and Nina Burri, University of Lucerne

Supervisory group

  • Prof. Dr. Reinhard Riedl, Präsident der Begleitgruppe, Departement Wirtschaft, Berner Fachhochschule BFH, Mitglied des Leitungsausschusses von TA-SWISS
  • Dr. Nadine Keller, Bundesamt für Gesundheit BAG
  • Dr. Adelgunde Kratzer, Institut für Rechtsmedizin, Universität Zürich
  • Dr. Alice Reichmuth Pfammatter, Datenschutzexpertin, Anwaltsbüro Reichmuth
  • Prof. em. Dr. Giatgen  Spinas, Universitätsspital Zürich, Mitglied des Leitungsausschusses von TA-SWISS
  • Prof. Dr. Franziska Sprecher, Institut für Öffentliches Recht, Universität Bern
  • Prof. Dr. Andrea Superti-Furga, Abteilung für medizinische Genetik, Universitätsspital Lausanne CHUV
  • Dr. Guy Vergères, Institut für Lebensmittelwissenschaften, Agroscope
  • Prof. Dr. Markus Zimmermann, Departement für Moraltheologie und Ethik, Universität Freiburg, Nationale Ethikkommission im Bereich der Humanmedizin NEK

Focus of the study

The study aims to identify both current uses of DNA analysis and potential future applications. Moreover, TA-SWISS has commissioned this study in order to shed light on various issues, including ethical aspects of genetic analysis.

Various companies already offer so-called lifestyle genetic testing: they create a genetic family tree for clients or recommend a diet that is tailored to an individual’s genetic make-up. Genetic analysis can also provide information about the physical appearance of a person based entirely on traces of DNA. Criminal prosecutors and police officials hope to create facial composites using DNA samples. In addition, DNA analysis reveals personal information – not only about the person tested, but also about his or her relatives. Who should have access to this information, and how should findings from DNA analysis be used – or not used? The TA study explores these and other questions.