Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa): Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues (ELSI) Research Program (U01)


Posted Date: September 19, 2017

Application due Date: December 6, 2017

Budget: $100,000

Background and Purpose

In 2012, the NIH in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, and with advice from the African Society of Human Genetics, initiated the Human Heredity and Health in Africa Program (H3Africa).  At the NIH, H3Africa is a component of the NIH Common Fund’s Global Health Initiative, and several Institutes and Centers have joined the Common Fund to support it.  Recognizing that African researchers and populations have been, and still are, substantially underrepresented in genomics and environmental research, and disproportionately affected by some environmental exposures, H3Africa is designed to provide new opportunities to African scientists to lead research on the genetic and environmental contributors to health and disease issues of importance to Africa through the use of genomics and other cutting-edge approaches.  In this document, the term “genomics and other cutting-edge approaches” is used broadly and is intended to include approaches such as genetic epidemiology, phenotyping, biomarker development, pre-clinical research including the use of model organisms, and research on clinical utility, among others.  For further background on the origin and development of H3Africa, see the article “Research Capacity: Enabling the Genomic Revolution in Africa” Science (2014) 344: 1346-1348, and the H3Africa web site

In order to enhance the capacity for genomics and environmental health research, in Africa by African scientists, and to understand the genetic and environmental factors that determine disease susceptibility, H3Africa has three interrelated, interdependent objectives:

  • To support human genomics and genetics research that will not only generate important findings and discoveries relevant to human health, but will also serve as a vehicle to improve the research capacity of African laboratories and provide research opportunities for young scientists at the institutions where the research is carried out.
  • To expand expertise and experience in genomics-based biomedical research and environmental epidemiology in Africa through research experience, skills development, and enhanced collaborations with regional, national, and international partners.
  • To improve infrastructure including bioinformatics and biorepository capacity needed to support genomics-based and environmental research and associated data and sample sharing.

These objectives have been addressed through a set of awards to African institutions from the two funding partners using several different funding mechanisms, awarded primarily in 2012 and 2013.  In its initial five-year phase, the Wellcome Trust has supported collaborative research projects and NIH has supported H3Africa Collaborative Centers (U54), H3Africa individual research projects (U01; including studies in the area of the ethical, legal, and societal issues of genomics in Africa), H3Africa Biorepositories (UH3), and a bioinformatics network, H3ABioNet (U41).  This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is being issued to solicit applications for research projects addressing ethical, legal, and social issues related to genomics research.  The ELSI Collaborative Center (RFA-RM-17-020) FOA is related to this FOA.

The H3Africa program is an initiative of the NIH Common Fund, which supports cross-cutting programs that are expected to have exceptionally high impact.  Investigators are invited to develop bold and innovative approaches to address problems that may seem intractable or to seize new opportunities that offer the potential for rapid progress.  Common Fund programs are limited to a maximum of 10 (ten) years in length. The NIH H3Africa program will complete its first five years in 2017; therefore, activities proposed in applications submitted in response to this FOA should (a) be framed in terms of what can realistically be accomplished in the remaining five years of the program (2017 – 2021) and (b)  be sustainable after 2021, when Common Fund support for the program ends.

Investigators funded by the H3Africa program operate as a highly collaborative Research Consortium.  The Research Consortium meets regularly in person and by teleconference.  The H3Africa Consortium has developed a number of overall policies and guidelines (see  These policies will be referred to at appropriate places in this document and all applicants are expected to recognize and adopt these policies or provide justification as to why a particular policy cannot be followed.

Leave a Reply