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Push for African Genomes

The Three Million African Genomes effort hopes to sequence the genomes of about 300,000 African individuals a year, the Economist writes.

It notes that while Africans make up 17 percent of the global population, less than 2 percent of sequenced human genomes are from African individuals. This gap, Ambroise Wonkam from the University of Cape Town, who has proposed the 3MAG project, needs to be closed, as he tells the Economist.

Wonkam outlined his vision for the project earlier this year in the journal Nature. There, he estimated that the effort would cost about $450 million a year, including the cost of developing biorepositories and data infrastructure. But it would lead to a pan-African biobank of clinical information and samples that could be harnessed to study genetic diseases, refine estimates of genetic risk based on a more diverse population, and improve medical care. Wonkam noted that the project would build upon work like that of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa project.

He tells the Economist, that he does wonder if the idea " too big, too crazy and too expensive," though the magazine notes the same was said of the Human Genome Project.