Professor Solomon Fiifi Ofori-Acquah, PhD, Dean of the School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences (SBAHS), College of Health Sciences, and a prominent sickle cell disease scholar has led a 32-member team of hematologists, pulmonologist, cardiologists, pediatricians, geneticists, ethicists, and basic scientists to secure a U54 Center grant of US$5.5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA.
The team consisting of investigators from nine African Universities and Research Institutes, and the University of Pittsburgh, USA developed one of the winning proposals for the Human, Hereditary and Health in Africa (H3Africa) NIH Center grants. The Office of Research Innovation and Development (ORID), the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) and the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Translational and International Hematology facilitated the preparation of the application.
The proposed SickleGenAfrica: Sickle Cell Disease Genomics Network of Africa will conduct three inter-related research projects in sickle cell disease patients in Ghana (Accra, Kumasi), Cameroon (Yaounde), Nigeria (Abuja, Lagos and Kano) and Tanzania (Dar es Salaam). Professor Ofori-Acquah will provide overall oversight of the research, training and scientific cores of the network. He is also Lead Investigator of the primary genomics research project; a genome-wide association study of hemolysis modifying factors and their role and mechanism in acute organ damage in sickle cell disease patients. Professor Julie Makani of Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Tanzania and Professor Awandare, Director of WACCBIP will lead the second research project focused on the genomics of severe malaria complications in sickle cell disease.
Professor Mahmoud Sani, Bayero University, Nigeria leads the third research project focused on the genomics of cardiovascular phenotypes in sickle cell disease. Other University of Ghana faculty contributing to the network includes Drs. Edeghonghon Olayemi (Department of Hematology, SBAHS), Catherine Segbefia (Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine and Dentistry), Anita Ghansah (Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research) and Phyllis Addo (Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, now with School of Veterinary Medicine).
Four scientific cores including a transgenic sickle cell mouse colony to be set up at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, which will be the first of its kind in Africa, will
provide crosscutting support to the three genomics research projects. Other scientific cores include a biorepository core in Abuja, Nigeria, and a bio-informatics core in Pittsburgh, USA, working closely with a bio-informatics node in the Kumasi Collaborative Center for Medical Research, and H3ABionet in Cape Town, South Africa to process and manage the human genomics data generated by the network. Clinical collaborative sites in Ghana include the Ghana Institute of Clinical
Genetics, Korle Bu, Department of Child Health,
Korle Bu, and the Kumasi Sickle Cell Center at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. The network will be formally launched early next year.
Congratulations to the Dean of the School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences and his team for securing this prestigious grant, which is the largest Research Grant the University has received from the NIH in the last five years.