In the past, African patients have had poor access to medical advances, even as scientists use them as research subjects. [Researcher Charles] Rotimi worried that genetics might again exploit the 1 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa, ignoring their need for treatments for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and cancer.
…[S]cientists came out with a frenzy of discoveries about our DNA that could possibly lead to new treatments for diabetes, cancer, psychiatric illnesses and other serious diseases. But they were drawing from a small slice of the world: Nearly all of the published work was based on populations with European ancestry. By 2009, fewer than 1 percent of the several hundred genome investigations included Africans.
…[C]ompared with Europeans and Americans, Africans have much better genomes for research, again because of their ancestral age. Over time, as a genetic material is handed down from one generation to the next, SNPs tend to gather in clusters, making them easier for researchers to find. As a consequence, they are more apparent in older genomes.
…[T]he project, which Rotimi eventually named Human Heredity and Health in Africa, or H3Africa, would do far more than study African genomes: It would be a massive research effort led by African scientists, located in African institutions and directly benefiting the African population. H3Africa would create parity between researchers there and in Europe and North America.
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