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News that public prosecutors were investigating a potential heist in a gene bank in Sardinia made a media splash earlier this week. A technician at the facility had reported thousands of vials of human DNA missing. But the sensational story soon collapsed: the vials were located at a hospital in Cagliari, Sardinia’s largest city, where they had been moved by scientists about three years earlier.

Case closed? Not quite: the investigation continues, because the theft-that-wasn’t has revived confusion about who actually owns the DNA samples and their associated data.

The alleged crime scene was Parco Genos, a biomedical facility in the small town of Perdasdefogu in the eastern Sardinian province of Ogliastra. It stores DNA samples from almost 13,000 residents of ten surrounding towns, collected since 2000 as part of a research project part-funded by Italy’s National Research Council (CNR).

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