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NIH to Fund Ethical, Legal, Social Studies of Genomics Research in Africa

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Human Genome Research Institute plans to fund new efforts to delve into the range of possible ethical, legal, and social issues that could arise from the use of genomics technologies and genome-focused research projects in Africa.

These new projects will be part of the ELSI arm of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) program, which aims to catalyze Africa's genomics research capabilities, resources, and talent pool.

A partnership between NHGRI, the Welcome Trust, and the African Society for Human Genetics, H3Africa awarded $37 million in funding in 2011 to support projects aimed at increasing the number of African researchers trained in genomics, expanding infrastructure such as bioinformatics, biorepository, sampling, and storage tools, and supporting research projects in Africa.

NHGRI wants researchers to pursue projects that examine the various views and conceptions of communities, families, religious leaders, and policy makers in Africa that may impact, or be impacted by, the arrival of advanced genomics research efforts.

These projects may look into a wide array of possible issues related to the use of biorepositories; sample collection; data sharing; privacy concerns; the possible stigmatization of families affected by genetic disorders; how socieoconomic factors could affect the use of genomic findings in medicine; how cultural attitudes could affect scientific inquiry; and how to educate the public about genetic research findings.

This is the second round of ELSI-focused research projects that will be funded under H3Africa, as NHGRI announced its first ELSI grants last June.

These grants will provide funding for three or four projects with up to $50,000 each.