Enabling the genomic revolution in Africa

20 June 2014 vol 344, issue 6190, pages 1317-1424

Policy Forum
Research Capacity
Enabling the genomic revolution in Africa
The H3Africa Consortium
Corresponding author. Charles Rotimi, Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health, National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892–5635, USA
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.