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Venter Institute, U of Limpopo Sign MOU to Expand Genomic Collaboration

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The J. Craig Venter Institute today announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Limpopo in South Africa to expand ongoing research collaborations into human genomics and prostate cancer in indigenous African populations.

The collaboration will be called the University of Limpopo-J. Craig Venter Institute Genomics Network.

Goals and projects established within the framework of the network include defining the extent of genomic diversity in the Khoisan and Bantu populations in Southern Africa, and creating a genomic profile of prostate cancer disparities in the South African population.

The network also will promote the exchange of scientific ideas, information, and technology related to human genetic diversity and genomic medicine. It also will facilitate faculty and study exchanges and develop joint projects.

A clinical research program will be created, in which a "thorough and complete" ethical review of the research will be done to ensure the protection of participants in the program.

JCVI said that Vanessa Hayes, a professor of genomic medicine at JCVI, and Philip Venter (no relation to Craig Venter), a professor in UL's Faculty of Health Sciences, Turfloop Campus, have a longstanding relationship and both were involved in the South African Genome Project, which sequenced Archbishop Desmond Tutu and four South African Bushmen. They were the first South African genomes to be sequenced and published.

The collaboration announced today will build on that partnership "by formally enabling researchers at both institutions to utilize and learn from the experience and expertise of their colleagues," JCVI said in a statement.

JCVI and UL, along with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will hold a workshop and conference next week at the university as part of the deal, during which JCVI and NIAID will conduct workshops on next-generation sequencing technologies and bioinformatics. They also will host a conference focused on human genomics/genetics, bioinformatics, infectious disease, and viral and microbial genomics.

"It is crucial that Southern Africa be included in the world map of human genomics research to truly define not only the extent of human diversity, but also disease significance within the region," JCVI's Hayes said in a statement.

UL's Venter added, "This agreement will help to ensure that the most rural and disadvantaged communities will have access to these new technologies, which in future will be the main component of comprehensive health care."

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