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NIH's H3Africa Program Funds Studies of Genomic Awareness in Africa

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded more than $300,000 for two projects to study how people in Nigeria and Ethiopia understand genomics concepts and how that awareness can impact research and public health, NIH said today.

The grants were awarded under the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) program, which aims to ramp up genomics research capabilities, facilities, and expertise across Africa, and in particular through the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications component of the program.

"These grants will help us get a better sense of what people in two different African countries understand about genomics concepts," H3Africa Program Director Ebony Madden, an epidemiologist in the Division of Genomic Medicine at the National Human Genome Research Institute, said in a statement. "We hope that what we learn from this will work will lead to more effective informed consent discussions with potential research participants and to new culturally appropriate educational strategies about genomics."

One study will focus on linguistic and cultural language concepts of genomics in Nigeria, with the goal of developing a participant consent form for a diabetes study that relays genetic concepts to people in rural and urban environments. Researchers from Nigeria's Institute of Human Virology will use the $162,000 award to interview community leaders and hold focus groups to assess how satisfied research participants are with the consent forms that are currently in use. The team will then develop a new form to "better explain genomics terms" and try it out in a diabetes study, NIH said.

Investigators at Ethiopia's Addis Ababa University will use their $161,151 grant to assess how young people understand how genes and the environment interact to cause podoconiosis, a common infection in northern Ethiopia caused when people with certain genetic variants are exposed to volcanic soil. The team plans to develop educational strategies and a resource to improve the understanding of these concepts in African communities, NIH said.

The H3Africa program, which is funded by NIH and the Wellcome Trust, has disbursed roughly $78 million in grants to date.