Africa is the origin of all mankind and its peoples are the most genetically rich. Yet less than 10% of all genetic data available in the world today is from African populations. That needs to change.
Africa is the origin of all mankind. That means the roots to many of our genes can be traced to our African ancestors. Furthermore, Africans have extremely high genetic diversity. For example, the genetic differences between the Khoisan - an African ethnic group - are much higher than the genetic differences between a European and an Asian.
So, if we can understand the genetics of all African populations, we can also better understand the genetics of all populations in the world. Genetic data from Africans could therefore contribute to a better understanding of how genes influence disease and drug response in all world populations.
Unfortunately, genetic data from Africans is currently lacking and represents less than 10% of available genetic data. There is an urgent need for more genetic data from African populations.
But data is just the first step. Translating data to medical knowledge will require the participation of highly skilled individuals. That is why our goal at the United Genomes Project is not only to generate data but also train thousands of students and scientists so they can make discoveries on how genetics can be useful for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease.
“My hope is that my genetic code may provide a voice for the region and serve as the starting point for a map of DNA variation significant for Southern African peoples, to be used for medical research efforts and effective design of medicines.” Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa