Bioethicists, scientists, policy makers and representatives from Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom met Nov. 28-29, 2011, in Abuja, Nigeria, to develop a comprehensive plan for the ethical conduct of genomic research in Africa.
"Our goal at this meeting - the very first of its kind ever held in Africa - was to identify gaps in our knowledge and policies related to ethics in genomic research. This will help us to begin developing standards of conduct for the future of genomic research in Africa," said Clement Adebamowo, Sc.D., meeting organizer and director of the West African Bioethics Training Program at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, which is funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The landmark meeting was sponsored by Ethics and Genomics Research in Africa (EAGER-Africa) (http://eager-africa.com), part of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) program. NIH and the Wellcome Trust, a global charity based in London, formed H3Africa in 2010 with input from the African Society of Human Genetics. The goal is to improve African scientists' capacity to solve some of their country's health problems through research on the genomic and environmental causes of common diseases. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) administers H3Africa on behalf of the NIH Common Fund.
Charles N. Rotimi, Ph.D., director of NHGRI's Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health, provided the conference opening statement, highlighting the H3 Africa Program and the importance of including research on the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomics. The two-day conference, culminated a series of recommendations for investigators, policy makers and international funding agencies. African researchers cited the following high priority needs:
"Genetics and genomics researchers have always been interested in studying people in Africa - the original source of all human genetic diversity," said Jean E. McEwen, J.D., Ph.D., program director of NHGRI's Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Research program. "The EAGER-Africa meeting was novel in its recognition of the need to have Africans serve not just as donors of samples, but as active participants in the genomics research enterprise."
Based on meeting recommendations, NIH plans to issue a request for applications in fiscal year 2012 to support research on the societal implications of genomics in Africa. Funding would begin in fiscal year 2013. H3Africa funding opportunities can be found at http://h3africa.org/links/funding.
Last Updated: February 5, 2014