Newly Launched African-centric Biobank Offers Researchers Access to African Biospecimens to Diversify Genomics and Translational Research

Newly Launched African-centric Biobank Offers Access Researchers to African Biospecimens to Diversify Genomics and Translational Research
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MyAfroDNA is a limited liability company that provides a solution to the significant lack of African representation in translational and genomics research. The African-centric biobank offers access to ethically sourced African biospecimens across several therapeutic areas for researchers interested in leveraging from such African bioresources to diversify and advance their research efforts. The company which has just begun its operation in Southern Nigeria has already struck partnerships with over 300 health facilities to aid the collection of biospecimens in diseases across major therapeutic areas.

Dr. Justin Eze Ideozu, the founder of MyAfroDNA states, “the biobank has a vision to ensure people of African ancestry benefit from advances in translational and genomics research. We are on a mission to serve as the ultimate African biospecimen resource center for researchers interested in pursuing a wide range of biomedical research that will lead to improved global health outcomes. It is now well-known in the field that African genomes are more diverse than those of other ethnicities. So, studying African genomes will lead to novel insights into many diseases, new therapies, and global health improvement, yet they have been understudied.” The founder acknowledges there are existing efforts to address the problem of lack of diversity in genomics research but emphasizes that reaping the benefits of genomics research should go beyond just sequencing African genomes but ensuring that the generated knowledge is utilized to improve health outcomes for communities. MyAfroDNA is modeled to benefit researchers or end-users, providers, participants, African communities, health authorities, and at large people of all ancestries. Crucially, MyAfroDNA plans to make its datasets freely available to relevant non-profits, health providers and health authorities. Therefore, the benefits to Africans at individual- or community-level will be enormous.

Dr. Siyeofori Dede, a Public Health Physician with a predilection for Public Health Genomics, is a Co-Principal Investigator of the Biobank. Dr. Dede states, “Public Health Genomics has been successfully integrated into health systems in many countries, but Africa lags behind in terms of using genomics knowledge to improve health outcomes of communities. MyAfroDNA’s promise of making the datasets generated from the biobank freely available to providers and relevant health authorities will revolutionize future designs of public health intervention programs and genetic policies for African communities.” Dr. Dede acknowledges it will not be an easy task to align genomic findings with public health programs but emphasizes that with sufficient funding and collaboration with both local and international experts he has no doubt the public health goal of the biobank can be achieved.

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Based on the biobank’s wide reach of access to African biospecimens from various diseases, they are capable of recruiting cohorts that will be of interest to potential collaborators and end-users. In addition to biobanking, MyAfroDNA will partner with local health facilities in African communities where it operates to offer molecular testing services and will support principal investigators interested in deploying genetics/genomics approaches to pursue their research questions. The company is open to collaborate with researchers from for-profit and non-profit institutions, including direct-to-consumer companies, biobanks, academic institutions, research institutions, health institutions, and individuals.