Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New African Initiative

The NIH Common Fund in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, a global charity based in London, is planning a new initiative termed “Human Heredity and Health in Africa” (H3Africa) to study the genomic and environmental determinants of common diseases in Africa. NIH will fund $25 million and Wellcome Trust will contribute $12 million to fund the H3Africa Initiative

The vision of H3Africa is to create and support a continental network of laboratories equipped to apply leading-edge research to study the complex interplay between environmental and genetic factors which determine disease susceptibility and drug responses in African populations. The data generated will be used to address health inequity and ultimately lead to health benefits in Africa.

To accomplish this goal, the planners of the H3Africa Initiative are considering ways to enhance the necessary genomic expertise among African scientists and how to establish networks for African investigators.

A study, recommends the need to establish one or more biorepositories in Africa and also establish a bioinformatics network to train scientists in genomic research methodologies. A bioinformatics network would provide connectivity among the H3Africa awardees and provide information on how to utilize bioinformatics tools for research projects. This would be done by developing computational tools designed to address the African genomic research projects.

Because of transportation problems within Africa, more than one biorepository is needed and should be established at the regional level. The African biorepository would need to have facilities to receive human blood samples from African genomic research sites, and be able to make transformed cell lines and DNA from the blood and/or the cell lines. This has to be accomplished in a safe manner by securely using state-of-the-art technologies in order to distribute samples to requestors.

Before NIH can publish a funding announcement for the “H3Africa Bioinformatics Network”, NIH needs more information about existing African bioinformatics infrastructure and expertise. Two Notices of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for the H3Africa Bioinformatics Network have been published by NIH. The two notices can be viewed at and at For further inquiries, email Jane Peterson PhD, at