Policy ForumResearch Capacity

Enabling the genomic revolution in Africa

Science  20 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6190, pp. 1346-1348
DOI: 10.1126/science.1251546

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Summary

Our understanding of genome biology, genomics, and disease, and even human history, has advanced tremendously with the completion of the Human Genome Project. Technological advances coupled with significant cost reductions in genomic research have yielded novel insights into disease etiology, diagnosis, and therapy for some of the world's most intractable and devastating diseases—including malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, cancer, and diabetes. Yet, despite the burden of infectious diseases and, more recently, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa, Africans have only participated minimally in genomics research. Of the thousands of genome-wide association studies (GWASs) that have been conducted globally, only seven (for HIV susceptibility, malaria, tuberculosis, and podoconiosis) have been conducted exclusively on African participants; four others (for prostate cancer, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anthropometry) included some African participants (www.genome.gov/gwastudies/). As discussed in 2011 (www.h3africa.org), if the dearth of genomics research involving Africans persists, the potential health and economic benefits emanating from genomic science may elude an entire continent.

  • * H3Africa Consortium research investigators, funding agencies, and institutions appear in the supplementary materials.