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Manipulating genetic variations in Africans to solve healthcare problems


A recent study has shown that only two percent of researches carried out on genomics are done on Africans

With 50 per cent of the world’s genetic variations in Africa, a recent study has shown that only two percent of researches carried out on genomics are done on Africans.

Although, Africans make up about half of the world genetic diversity, the continent has not produced genomics for people to study and personalise treatment.

According to the study, Caucasians usually produce the most genomes.


Recently, most of the breakthrough, studies that have been carried so far are on Caucasian genomes, where some of the new drugs and new diagnostics that are being made are personalised therapies and are not working on Africans.

To change the narratives, 54gene heritage study has inaugurated its research committee to study and understand the genomic of Africans in the area of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, age-related degenerative diseases, sickle cell anemia and some other diseases.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) 54gene, Dr. Abasi Eneobong, said the research is a premier genomic study that seeks to understand variation in our gene and how it can lead to better treatment for Africans.

He added that the essence is to establish a platform for African scientists to develop and continue this essential works into the future.

He said that just by being able to understand the genomics and finding the variations that will target drugs and diagnostics could potentially find therapies that treat people of most ailments.

Eneobong noted that 54gene is committed to improving research capacity in Africa and has established the first private Biobank for Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) in Nigeria and the 54gene Heritage Study which is a repository of human bio-specimen, local epidemiology and genetic data from patients because NCD represents the diverse Nigerian populace.


He added that the 54gene Heritage Research consortium will facilitate fundamental research into diseases on the African continent while also developing infrastructure, resources, training and ethical guidelines to support a sustainable African research enterprise.

“The study will collect process and store 40,000 bio-specimen samples for genetic and genomic studies aimed at reducing the disparities in the incidence and outcomes of NCD related to the African race.

“We are focusing on Africa patients to find solutions with African patients with certain diseases as well as information we learn from this will improve healthcare to patients and society at large,” the CEO said.

He added that the research is a national effort to apply advanced technology to further understand and unlock the genomic potential in African population.

Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi-Araba, Dr. Omolala Salako, said that 54gene heritage study is a phenomenal study that is set out to gather clinical data, epidemiological data, and bio specimen from patients living with certain disease conditions like cancer, neuro-degenerated diseases like Parkinson, sickle cell disease which Nigeria has the highest prevalence.

She explained that the study is basically to understand the genetic mutation, variations that Nigerian patients have.


“The genes of Africans are diverse especially Nigerians, we want to understand the genetic mutation or abnormalities of certain diseases patients have.

“If we understand this, we can begin to explore, target solutions and create an intervention that can solve problems. Medicine right now is personalized. We can only provide personalised care if we understand the genetic issues associated with Nigeria populace,” Salako added.

The consultant stated that the study population represents every Nigerian. “The study has ten centres scattered around the six geopolitical zones. The study recruitment is not biased to gender, religion or tribe. The study is going on in public hospitals where we have the capacity in terms of medical infrastructure and patients are currently receiving care.”

Salako said that to conduct a study of this scale requires technical and financial backing and the study is currently funded by 54gene.

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