News Release

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

First recipients of research grants to support genomic studies in Africa announced

NIH and Wellcome Trust grants focus first on common diseases.

African scientists will conduct genomic research on kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, tuberculosis and African sleeping sickness through inaugural grants of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa Consortium (H3Africa). The grants were announced by the two funding organizations, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust, a global charity based in London. The organizations also awarded grants for the development of an African bioinformatics network and two pilot biorepositories, which are banks that maintain biospecimens for future scientific investigation.

The U.S. and British organizations are working together on the H3Africa project, which aims to improve the health of Africans through the study of genomics and environmental determinants of common diseases. The H3Africa initiative will help develop expertise among African scientists, foster increased collaboration among African investigators, enhance the infrastructure for genomics research in Africa, and contribute to the training of the next generation of African researchers in the use of contemporary genomic approaches in the study of important health problems.

"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," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "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."

NIH has committed $25 million of grant support over five years, contingent on the availability of funds, and Wellcome Trust has committed almost $13 million over five years. More than half of NIH’s fiscal year 2013 contribution to H3Africa comes from the NIH Common Fund, a program created to support multi-disciplinary programs across NIH. H3Africa is also supported by several institutes and centers at NIH, including the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the NIH Office of AIDS Research and NIH’s Fogarty International Center.

"With support from these H3Africa grants, the African scientific community will be empowered to make key breakthroughs on a set of important diseases," said Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D., NHGRI director. "These grants will facilitate creation of the necessary infrastructure and research capacity to conduct cutting edge science in African institutions. The genomic and clinical resources generated by H3Africa investigators will facilitate studies of the environmental, cultural and genetic determinants of diseases that are important to Africans and other human populations." NHGRI administers H3Africa on behalf of NIH.

Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said, "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."

"H3Africa is certain to have profound and lasting effects on the landscape of genomics research in Africa," said Charles N. Rotimi, Ph.D., director of the trans-NIH Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health. "This program will enable African researchers to study African populations, to solve African problems and to train the next generation of African scientists."

The inaugural H3Africa projects were announced at a meeting of the principal investigators, representing 22 African countries, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

NIH-funded research projects include:

  1. Principal Investigator: Akin Abayomi, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
    Development of Africa H3 Biorepositories to facilitate studies on Biodiversity, Disease & Pharmacogenomics of African Populations
  2. Principal Investigator: Alash'le G Abimiku, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, Abuja
    IHVN H3 African Biorespository (I-HAB) Initiative
  3. Principal Investigators: Dwomoa Adu, University of Ghana Medical School, Accra and Akinlolu Ojo, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
    H3Africa Kidney Disease Research Network
  4. Principal Investigator: Dissou Affolabi, National Hospital for Tuberculosis and Pulmonary Diseases, Cotonou, Benin
    RAFAgene: Contribution of genetic variation to pharmacokinetic variability and toxicity in patients undergoing multi-drug tuberculosis treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa
  5. Principal Investigator: Nicola Mulder, University of Cape Town, South Africa
    H3ABioNet: A Sustainable African Bioinformatics Network for H3Africa
  6. Principal Investigator: Michele Ramsay, University of the Witwatersrand and NHLS, Johannesburg
    Genomic and environmental risk factors for cardiometabolic disease in Africans

Wellcome Trust-funded research projects include:

  1. 7. Principal Investigator: Bongani Mayosi, University of Cape Town, South Africa
    The RHDGen Network: Genetics of rheumatic heart disease and molecular epidemiology of Streptococcus pyogenes pharyngitis
  2. 8. Principal Investigator: Enock Matovu, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
    TrypanoGEN: An integrated approach to the identification of genetic determinants of susceptibility to trypanosomiasis
  3. 9. Principal Investigator: Albert Amoah, University of Ghana, Accra
    Burden, spectrum and etiology of type 2 diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa

For more information, see:

About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicate" to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests. 

The NIH Common Fund supports a series of exceptionally high impact research programs that are broadly relevant to health and disease. Common Fund programs are designed to overcome major research barriers and pursue emerging opportunities for the benefit of the biomedical research community at large. The research products of Common Fund programs are expected to catalyze disease-specific research supported by the NIH Institutes and Centers. Additional information about the NIH Common Fund can be found at

NHGRI is one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. The NHGRI Division of Extramural Research supports grants for research and training and career development at sites nationwide. Additional information about NHGRI can be found at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®