Scientists at African medical research institutions are collaborating with a new initiative called Human Heredity and Health in Africa — or H3Africa — to advance African capacity and expertise in genomic science. H3Africa, announced in June 2010, is organized and supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Wellcome Trust, a global charity based in London. Now, H3Africa organizers have launched a new website to serve as a repository for research resources and information about H3Africa.
The website — www.h3africa.org — is hosted by its sponsor organizations, but will eventually become a freestanding site managed and operated by the collective H3Africa enterprise. Like H3Africa itself, the site is a capacity-developing opportunity for H3Africa participants.
"The momentum for H3Africa has been growing," said H3Africa organizer Charles N. Rotimi, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health at the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH. "The official website will now help us communicate with our colleagues undertaking population-based research at institutions and universities across Africa."
In its current form, the site offers the first public availability of a white paper commissioned from two H3Africa working groups focused on communicable and non-communicable diseases. The white paper outlines the initiative's pilot phase, addressing the scientific background and justification for H3Africa projects; identification of potential collaborators across Africa; methods for facilitating interactions among African geneticists, clinicians and others; and issues surrounding legal and social considerations and data sharing. The website provides the opportunity for users to comment and provide feedback on this document to members of the H3Africa leadership.
"We have had input for our research vision from colleagues at a broad range of African medical research centers," said Dr. Rotimi. "This kind of engagement is critical in tapping into the African genomic science field and in preparing to strengthen capacity in the years to come for population studies that will have a significant impact on the health of Africans and people around the world."
The white paper will be a focal point of the upcoming H3Africa conference in Cape Town, South Africa, March 4-5, 2011. The conference is a prominent item on the website's "News and Events" tab, which includes a link to the conference registration site for those interested in participating in the conference.
H3Africa is supported by the NIH Common Fund, with a $25 million commitment of support over five years, and by Wellcome Trust funding of $12 million over five years. H3Africa leadership includes both NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and Wellcome Trust Director Sir Mark Walport, M.D.
When the initiative reaches grant opportunity stage, the website will become the source of announcements to request research proposals. Genetic studies to be commissioned will range from population-based investigations of common, non-communicable disorders such as sickle cell disease, heart disease and cancer, as well as communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. The grants will give African researchers opportunities to utilize genetic, clinical and epidemiologic screening tools to identify hereditary and non-hereditary contributions to disease risk.
Last Reviewed: April 4, 2012