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Sh396.4mn Fund to Support scientific research into genetic diversity in Africa launched

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 19 – Researchers based at universities, science councils and other public research organizations across Africa have been asked to submit proposals exploring the link between genetic diversity and response to malaria and tuberculosis drugs in African patients.

The initiative by GSK and Novartis seeks to support high-quality scientific research investigating the link between genetic diversity across different regions in Africa and its potential impact on response to drug therapeutics.

The Project Africa Genomic Research Approach for Diversity and OptimisinTherapeutics (GRADIENT), with a combined funding commitment of USD 3.6 million or Sh396.4 million over five years, calls on African researchers to submit robust research proposals.

Pauline Williams, Senior Vice President Global Health Pharma at GSK said Genetic diversity is greater in Africa than in any other continental population resulting in some African patients having varying response to treatments.

She added that the launch of Project Africa GRADIENT aims at catalyzing the best science in the continent to optimize treatment responses for malaria and tuberculosis, the two infectious diseases that disproportionately affect African populations.

Project Africa GRADIENT comprises three funding mechanisms which include fellowships, Investigator-sponsored research, and seed fund.

Within the scope of the agreement, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) will administer the project, and a Joint Steering Committee will oversee the review of submitted proposals. Priority will be given to research aimed at collecting data from currently under-represented regions and improving the scientific robustness of inconsistent data. All datasets collated are planned to be released in a public database to catalyse a positive change in approach to understanding variations in treatment efficacy and safety for patients across the continent.

Prof. Glenda Gray, SAMRC President and CEO, said: “It is exciting to see more and more global partners taking interest in the challenges of Africa. We are delighted that partners are now seeking to address the challenges of Africa by their quest to understand the fundamental differences between genetics of Africa and the rest of the world.”

As a first step, researchers based at universities, science councils and other public research organizations across Africa are invited to express their ‘intent to submit’ through the SAMRC website. Final award recipients are expected to be announced by end of 2021.

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