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NHGRI to Fund Ethical, Legal Studies of Genomics Research in Africa

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Human Genome Research Institute intends to support studies that delve into the ethical, legal, and societal issues involved in conducting genomics research projects in Africa, according to a new funding announcement from the institute.

NHGRI will fund new projects that delve into these issues under its Human Heredity and Health in Africa, or H3Africa, program.

Led by NHGRI and including partners at the Wellcome Trust and the African Society of Human Genetics, the H3Africa program seeks to increase genomics and bioinformatics resources, technologies, and expertise in Africa and to support genomics research projects focused on the roots of disease.

The institute has already launched several funding announcements to support research projects and core facilities totaling $37 million over a five-year period.

This new request for applications will provide grants of up to $50,000 for three or four projects that will investigate the ethical, legal, and societal issues, involved in conducting genomics research and applying findings from those studies in a range of communities throughout Africa.

"As with all genomic research, performing genomic studies in communities with diverse social, cultural and religious beliefs, such as those found in the urban and rural communities of countries in Africa, raises ethical, legal, and societal issues, and will ultimately influence how a wide range of social practices and norms are understood and shaped," NHGRI said.

These studies will be small, self-contained projects that may explore a number of issues NHGRI has already identified and others it has not.

NHGRI would like these projects to explore issues related to government regulations for how specimens are used and stored in genomics research, how issues involving privacy and confidentiality may be different for communities in Africa, what are the attitudes toward personal genomic tests in communities, and what beliefs are common surrounding genetic inheritance and transmission of genetic diseases in Africa. These projects also may explore cultural and religious beliefs surrounding donating blood for use in genetics research, how consent forms may best be used, and what strategies may be most likely for educating the public in Africa about findings from genetics research and how they may impact health and society, among others.

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