On 29 October 1949, the Dutch Anthropogenetic Association (NAV) was founded at the initiative of Dr. J.W. Bruins, general practitioner, . The most famous co-founder was the ophthalmologist-geneticist Dr. P.J. Waardenburg. The objective formulated in the articles of association at that time is still relevant: the promotion of scientific hereditary research in humans and the application of its results. Since then, chairs, laboratories, institutes and departments have been established at all medical faculties to promote scientific research and education. The application of the results has been widely practiced since 1979 through the establishment of clinical genetics foundations closely affiliated with all academic centers.
The character of NAV has changed considerably over the years. In the 1960s, for example, less than 10% of the nearly 500 (!) Members had a day job in anthropogenetic research and education. Currently, the association (+/- 480 members) mostly consists of professional researchers in the field of anthropogenetics or a closely related field.
Dutch Anthropogenetic Association (NAV) was founded. On 29 October 1949, at the initiative of Dr. J.W. Bruins, general practitioner, the Dutch Anthropogenetic Association (NAV) founded. The most famous co-founder was the ophthalmologist-geneticist Dr. P.J. Waardenburg.
On 25 April 1953, Watson and Crick published their landmark Nature paper (back-to-back with co-DNA-discovers Wilkins and Franklin). Three years later – in 1956 – the Chinese-Dutch reported on the number of human chromosomes: 46. These discoveries have been the foundation of genetics research.
Jobs in Human Genetics
In the 1960s, less than 10% of the nearly 500 (!) NAV members had a day job in anthropogenetic research and education. Recognition of pharmacogenetics as a research field (1959), or the discovery of gene editing (1979) did not change this figure much.
St. Annadal goes cyto
A local hospital in Maastricht – St Annadal) is the first to start a cytogenetic laboratory. Later, in the 1970s and 1980s, the number of cytogenetic laboratories increases to 15.
Prenatal diagnostics in The Netherlands
Galjaard triggered controversy with his first prenatal diagnosis prior to passing of the abortion law. Some found it amazing that this was even possible. Others did not think doctors should do such a thing as their main job is to protect and improve lifeprior to passing of abortion law. Later, the birth of the first pre-implantation diagnosed baby (1997) was met with similar controversy
Clinical genetics NL
The 1980s are the institutionalisation years for clinical genetics. In 1987, the Netherlands is second (after the UK in 1970) to formally recognise clinical genetics as a medical specialty. Moreover, the Ministry of Health appoints nine dedicated clinical genetic centres, installs legislation to prohibit non-academic hospitals and private companies to provide clinical genetic services (the Specialist Medical Practice Act; Wbmv), and includes clinical genetic testing and counselling in basic health insurance.
Birth of Herman
The early 1990s were booming for genetics research. The Netherlands had the controversial scoop of the first cloned bull – Herman. The early nineties were also the early years of the Human Genome Project, culminating in the publication of the human reference genome in 2001.
The Health Council recommendation (1989) to increase the ‘knowledge and insight in hereditary diseases’. was the go-ahead for the construction of advanced research infrastructures, not only to detect genetic causes of rare Mendelian disorders, but also for large-scale population studies to perform genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on ‘communicable diseases’. In 2002, the Dutch government boosts the broader application of genomics in society, installing a ‘national strategy’ for genomics; the Netherlands Genomics Initiative (NGI).
The ‘spit-parties’ of Google-affiliated 23andMe kicks off a Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) market, expected to exceed €3 billion by 2028. Despite the regulations, DTC-initiatives start to set foot on the Netherlands as well.
After intense preparations, the Netherlands was among the first to implement non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) in the routine gynaecological care.
The virus affects major parts of society, also genetics. The ESHG conference is virtual, clinical geneticists provide crucial support to COVID-19 patients, and the demand for pre-symptomatic testing (also beyond COVID-19) in society grows.