Human genomes

Zulu royal gathering


Collectively, Africans are the most genetically diverse people in the world. They are also one of the most resilient populations to disease. It is on this continent, we expect the next breakthroughs in genetic research to happen. For example, in 2019, the world discovered that the African genome has an additional 300 million base pairs and now there is a race to identify genes that can be used to develop better treatments, diagnostics and vaccines.

In order to advance genetics research and bring state-of-art technology to Africa, we created Genomics Africa. Genomics Africa is a not-for-profit initiative that can produce data in Africa at the same quality, price and speed as the international genomics centres. Furthermore, we have started a large training program in Africa in collaboration with international and national organisations. Consequently, we can now keep the sample on the continent and develop local capacity to sequence and analyse the data. For example, Genomics Africa and its partners have already brought state-of-the-art equipment worth US$ 10 million in equipment to Africa. We have also trained over 1,500 individuals in the last three years. We are now in a position to provide sequencing at the most affordable price in the world. For example:

Human Whole Genome (WGS): approx $1000– BGISEQ (external clients stating in October with final price release by then)

Human Whole Exome (WES): $400 – TFS S5Ion

African GeneChip (GC): $80 – Illumina

Sanger Sequencing (per amplicon): from $2 to $ 5 – TFS ABI3730xl

We can only provide cutting-edge and affordable services by collaborating with key companies and funders. However, this is the only the beginning and we are looking for new partners, funders and philantropists to advance this project. Below is a list of funders and biotech companies that are already contributed to starting this exciting initiative:

– Thermo Fisher Scientific (TFS) has sponsored the creation of the first TFS training site in Africa at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP). This site provide heavily discounted training workshops (1/20 of the price of the same workshops in Europe or America) and provides sponsorship for previously disadvantaged African individuals.

The Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) have provided the funding and building to host BGISEQ machines in South Africa. This allows whole human genomes to be sequenced in Africa at the same price as in their headquarters.

Illumina and H3Africa have developed the African GeneChip. Furthermore, they have brought an illumina Hi-Scan to South Africa to service the African market at very affordable rates. This equipment is accessible by the Genomics Africa initiative and it is hosted at the the Centre for Proteomics and Genomics Research (CPGR) in Cape Town.

The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) are supporting the DIPLOMICS initiative, that provides crucial resources to Genomics Africa to access a federation of omics laboratories in South Africa.

The National Research Foundation (NRF) of the DST funded many of the large equipment. For example, it funded the PacBio at NICD, the Hi-Seq at the ARC and a ABI 3730xl and a Miseq at KRISP.

Our vision is to keep introducing new and affordable technologies on the continent, providing access to high-level equipment and genomics services, funding key projects and to capacitate African scientists. As previously mentioned, we are also looking for more international funders, biotech and pharmaceutical companies and philantropists that want to contribute to our efforts. Researchers and funders can already use the genomics services at Genomics Africa and are free to contact us for a quote or for help to design/fund your project.

We have already started a number of large projects, including:

Below are some beautiful photographs that exemplify the diversity of the human genome in Africa. We are also organising a photographic exhibition by the photographer, Samora Chapman, in late 2019 to raise funding for this exciting initiative.

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