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H3Africa: current perspectives

Authors Mulder N, Abimiku A, Adebamowo SN, de Vries J, Matimba A, Olowoyo P, Ramsay M, Skelton M, Stein DJ

Received 1 December 2017

Accepted for publication 25 January 2018

Published 10 April 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 59—66

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PGPM.S141546

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Martin Bluth


Nicola Mulder,1 Alash’le Abimiku,2 Sally N Adebamowo,3 Jantina de Vries,4 Alice Matimba,5 Paul Olowoyo,6 Michele Ramsay,7 Michelle Skelton,1 Dan J Stein8,9

On behalf of the members of the H3Africa Consortium

1Computational Biology Division, Department of Integrative Biomedical Sciences, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; 2International Research Center of Excellence, Institute of Human Virology, Abuja, Nigeria; 3Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA; 4Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; 5Advanced Courses and Scientific Conferences, Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton, UK; 6Federal Teaching Hospital, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria; 7Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Division of Human Genetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 8Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, 9MRC Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders, Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract: Precision medicine is being enabled in high-income countries by the growing availability of health data, increasing knowledge of the genetic determinants of disease and variation in response to treatment (pharmacogenomics), and the decreasing costs of data generation, which promote routine application of genomic technologies in the health sector. However, there is uncertainty about the feasibility of applying precision medicine approaches in low- and middle-income countries, due to the lack of population-specific knowledge, skills, and resources. The Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) initiative was established to drive new research into the genetic and environmental basis for human diseases of relevance to Africans as well as to build capacity for genomic research on the continent. Precision medicine requires this capacity, in addition to reference data on local populations, and skills to analyze and interpret genomic data from the bedside. The H3Africa consortium is collectively processing samples and data for over 70,000 participants across the continent, accompanied in most cases by rich clinical information on a variety of non-communicable and infectious diseases. These projects are increasingly providing novel insights into the genetic basis of diseases in indigenous populations, insights that have the potential to drive the development of new diagnostics and treatments. The consortium has also invested significant resources into establishing high-quality biorepositories in Africa, a bioinformatic network, and a strong training program that has developed skills in genomic data analysis and interpretation among bioinformaticians, wet-lab researchers, and health-care professionals. Here, we describe the current perspectives of the H3Africa consortium and how it can contribute to making precision medicine in Africa a reality.

Keywords: H3Africa, genomic medicine, precision medicine, training, population genetics, disease

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