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NIH, Wellcome Trust Plan Bioinformatics Resource in Africa; Ask Research Community for Input

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The National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust plan to launch a bioinformatics resource in Africa and have put out a call for investigators and organizations with bioinformatics expertise that would be interested in working with grantees throughout the continent.

A notice of intent released last Friday said the Human Heredity and Health in Africa, or H3Africa, bioinformatics network is meant to "facilitate a contemporary research approach to the study of the genomic and environmental determinants of common diseases in Africa, with the goal of improving the health of African populations."

White paper recommendations for H3Africa include the development of a scientific infrastructure for genetic and genomic data generation and analysis, establishing one or more biorepositories for storage, retrieval, distribution and management of samples, and the development of a bioinformatics network that will be primarily responsible for training African scientists in bioinformatics.

The white paper also recommends that the funds be made directly to African institutions.

The network will support research in communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis and cancer due to infectious agents, as well as non-communicable diseases such as sickle cell disease and hypertension, among other research areas.

It is expected that studies performed by the initiative will inform subsequent strategies to address health inequities eventually leading to health benefits in Africa.

NIH said it needs more information about existing African bioinformatics infrastructure and expertise before it can issue a funding opportunity announcement and is calling for bioinformatics groups with expertise, some infrastructure, and interest that could "connect the other infrastructure and/or research activities of H3Africa if and when they are funded."

The agency also said that the earliest date at which H3Africa awards could be made will be September 2012.

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