Dr. Ojo Akinlolu Among Winners of Inaugural H3Africa Grants

The US National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust, a global charity based in London, recently announced the inaugural winners of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa Consortium (H3Africa) grants.  UMMS faculty member Akinlolu Ojo, MD, MPH, PhD, Professor, Internal Medicine and Florence E. Bingham Research Professor of Nephrology, was among the initial grant recipients. 

H3Africa is a new initiative created to support genomic research in Africa, specifically genomic research on kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, tuberculosis and African sleeping sickness. H3Africa is 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 on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the NIH Office of AIDS Research and NIH’s Fogarty International Center.  A combined commitment of almost $40M has been made to support the H3Africa program over the next five years.

According to NIH Director Francis Collins, "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…. 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."

Dr. Ojo and Principal Investigator, Dr. Dwomoa Adu from the University of Ghana Medical School, were among nine teams of investigators funded by this initiative.  Their proposal "H3Africa kidney disease research network" seeks to rapidly increase the capacity to conduct genomic studies of kidney disease in sub-Saharan Africa through a collaborative research network comprised of investigators based at 11 institutions in five African countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa) and four North American institutions.

Among the grant’s objectives, the collaborative Network expects to: phenotype 8,000 kidney disease cases and controls; conduct genetic research projects addressing single gene mutation kidney disorders in affected families, genetic variants of single genes associated with kidney diseases in the populations and genome wide association studies; establish two low-capital intensity, rugged and sustainable genomics research laboratories in Africa; implement a customized six-track training and career development plan for African-based genomic researchers; establish and maintain a Network-wide biospecimen repository; and establish and maintain a Network-wide data management and bioinformatics facility.

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