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Sub-Saharan Africa Genomics Research Gets UK Funding Boost

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UK's Medical Research Council has funded a new international initiative seeking to develop a multi-partner platform that will harness genomics and other technologies to study chronic, non-communicable diseases that impact sub-Saharan African.

The £1 million ($1.6 million) in new MRC funding will support the African Partnership for Chronic Disease Research (APDCR), which will tackle studies of a wide range of chronic diseases across Africa, for five years, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute said yesterday.

The aim of the APDCR partnership is to spur multi-center scientific projects focused on assessing the burden and causes of non-communicable diseases in sub-Saharan Africa and bolster the research base to ensure that Africans benefit from new advances in genomics.

The partners will aim to create a sustainable framework for sharing resources and skills and developing long-term strategies for managing and controlling chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which are expected to become the primary causes of death and morbidity in the region as treatments of infectious diseases like malaria and HIV improves. According to Wellcome Trust investigator Elizabeth Young the partnership expects to collect detailed health and disease information and blood samples from over 24,000 individuals across 10 countries.

Among the APDCR's core initiatives are the African Genome Variation project, studies of the genomics of cardiometabloic traits of diseases in Africa, efforts to assess the impact of HIV on the risk of non-communicable diseases, and qualitative studies to fuel development of population-based interventions to prevent non-communicable diseases.

Wellcome Trust and University of Cambridge lead investigator Manjinder Sandhu said in a statement that the African Genome Variation project will create "an important resource" for researchers on African disease.

"This will allow researchers to understand patterns of genetic diversity within sub-Saharan populations, as well as provide a global resource for genomic studies of diseases in Africa. If we want to have lasting benefits, the APCDR must provide mechanisms and infrastructure to share research resources, training and support with the next generation of researchers and scientific leaders in Africa," Sandhu said.

"For countries in sub-Saharan Africa to benefit from future progress in non-communicable disease research and genomics, there is a need to strengthen research capacity, training and collaboration across the region to ensure researchers can play a full part," added Professor Jean Claude Mbanya, lead investigator from the University of Yaounde, Cameroon. "This initiative will play an important role in piecing together the puzzle of non-communicable disease in Africa."