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Winners of Inaugural H3Africa Grants Announced

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health and Wellcome Trust today announced the winners of nine grants being awarded as part of an initiative to support genomic research in Africa.

The awards announced today are the inaugural grants of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa Consortium (H3Africa), an effort announced in 2010 by NIH and Wellcome Trust to improve the health of Africans through the study of genomics and environmental determinants of diseases.

H3Africa, NIH said today, will help develop expertise among scientists in Africa, foster increased collaboration among African scientists, enhance the infrastructure for genomics research in Africa, and help train the next generation of African researchers in genomic technologies directed at investigations in health-related issues.

NIH is committing $25 million to H3Africa during the next five years, contingent on the availability of funds. Wellcome Trust has committed about $13 million during the five-year period.

"H3Africa aims to transform the way science is conducted in Africa, by creating a sustainable research infrastructure and catalyzing the use of advanced genomic technologies to improve our understanding of a variety of diseases," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. "This is particularly relevant because Africa is the original cradle of all humanity, and in this era of expanded global travel and communication, it is becoming increasingly clear that we must think beyond our borders when it comes to understanding human biology and improving health."

Wellcome Trust Director Mark Walport added, "If we are to help tackle the growing burden of disease in Africa, it is important that we build capacity within the continent for African researchers and their institutions in order to understand the genetic and environmental causes of illness. The geographical breadth of participating institutions shows that H3Africa is about doing just this, enabling the scientists themselves to drive forward the African research agenda."

Six projects won NIH-funded H3Africa grants. They include Akin Abayomi of Stellenbosch University in South Africa and the principal investigator on a project titled "Development of Africa H3 biorepositories to facilitate studies on biodiversity, disease, & pharmacogenomics of African populations"; Alash'le G. Abimiku of the Institute of Human Virology in Nigeria, the principal investigator on "IHVN H3 African biorepository (I-HAB) Initiative"; Dwomoa Adu of the University of Ghana Medical School and Akinlolu Ojo from the University of Michigan, the principal investigators on "H3Africa kidney disease research network"; Dissou Affolabi, from the National Hospital for Tuberculosis and Pulmonary Diseases in Benin, the principal investigator on "RAFAgene: Contribution of genetic variation to pharmacokinetic variability and toxicity in patients undergoing multi-drug tuberculosis treatment in sub-Saharan Africa"; Nicola Mulder from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, the principal investigator on "H3ABioNet: A sustainable African bioinformatics network for H3Africa"; and Michele Ramsay from the University of the Witwatersrand and National Health Laboratory Service in Johannesburg, South Africa, the principal investigator on "Genomic and environmental risk factors for cardiometabolic disease in Africans."

Three projects won Wellcome Trust H3Africa grants. They are Bongani Mayosi from the University of Cape Town, and the principal investigator on "The RHDGen Network: Genetics of rheumatic heart disease and molecular epidemiology of Streptococcus pyogenes pharyngitis"; Enock Matovu of Makerere University in Uganda, the principal investigator on "TrypanoGEN: An integrated approach to the identification of genetic determinants of susceptibility to trypanosomiasis"; and Albert Amoah from the University of Ghana, the principal investigator on "Burden, spectrum and etiology of type 2 diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa."

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