School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences

School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences

The Genetics and Insurance Research Centre

The Genetics and Insurance Research Centre (GIRC) was set up in 1999 in the Department of Actuarial Mathematics and Statistics at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. The development of human genetics and genetic testing has enormous implications, not only for medicine, but also for the way in which health care, long-term care and all kinds of insurance are funded, and it is essential that these outcomes are researched at a time when major policy decisions are being considered by governments all over the world. GIRC's remit is to develop mathematical and actuarial models to estimate the costs of genetic knowledge to individuals, to insurers and to service providers.

GIRC has funding from a number of insurance companies, under the aegis of the Association of British Insurers. It is completely autonomous and independent: all its work will be in the public domain, and it is overseen by a broadly-based steering committee on which geneticists, actuaries and genetic interest groups are represented.

The four main strands of GIRC's project are:

  • to develop mathematical models of single-gene disorders, and their effect on insurance and service costs;
  • to develop methods of modelling multifactorial genetic conditions;
  • to develop actuarial models of all kinds of personal insurance, incorporating genetic knowledge; and
  • to develop links and collaborations with geneticists, epidemiologists and health economists.
The department has pioneered research into genetics and insurance. Examples of past and current work are:
  • the costs of adverse selection in life insurance, if insurers are banned from using genetic test results;
  • the impact of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast/ovarian cancer genes on critical illness and life insurance;
  • The impact of a genetic component of Coronary Heart Disease;
  • Alzheimer's disease, long-term care and the ApoE gene;
  • Early-onset Alzheimer's disease and the APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2 genes;
  • Adult Polycystic Kidney Disease and the APKD1 and APKD2 genes; and
  • Huntington's disease.
  • Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer.
  • The impact of large longitudinal studies such as UK Biobank.
  • Statistical uncertainty in premium rates based on epidemiological studies.
  • The economic argument for adverse selection arising from genetic information.


For more information, please contact the director of GIRC, Prof Angus Macdonald (+44(0)131-451-3209 or A.S.Macdonald@ma.hw.ac.uk).


Page maintained by A. S. Macdonald.

Last update 4 May 2009