The Wellcome Trust advanced course, Genetic Epidemiology in Africa, which was established by research scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute including Dr Manjinder Sandhu, Editor-in-Chief of GHEG, recently took place in Durban, South Africa. This course is part of a programme of annual Wellcome Trust overseas courses which train students, postdocs and clinicians in the latest laboratory techniques and data analysis tools, and is a reflection of the Wellcome Trust’s commitment to develop and strengthen the capacity of African researchers to conduct science. The Genetic Epidemiology in Africa course was instigated in 2010 by researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (Cambridge) and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics (Oxford), in partnership with local African institutions, with the aim to develop genomic research in Africa.
The objective of the course is to equip African scientists with the skills to conduct human population science and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) within Africa. Twenty three participants from across Africa took part in the week-long intensive course. A common ambition amongst participants was to develop the skill sets needed to set up their own genetic studies and analyse the genetic data they produce. In the future, many hoped to be able to work independently of collaborators in Europe and the US. As an instructor, I hoped to highlight the benefits of research collaboration, whilst equipping participants with the necessary skills for conducting large-scale genetic studies of human populations.
The course programme followed the experimental process, beginning with an introduction to human population genetics and GWAS study design, through to data collection and analysis, and finally the interpretation and follow up of results. Through a series of talks and practical workshops using the statistical software R, the course aimed to develop the participants’ computational skills and critical and conceptual thinking. Particular emphasis was placed on the use of publically available software and resources, (such as PLINK, HapMap, and 1000 genomes) to promote accessibility. Two external speakers from the host institution University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professors Tulio de Oliveira (Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies) and Ayesha Motala, discussed their genetic studies in HIV and diabetes to provide tangible examples.
The participants’ feedback from this year’s course was positive with many feeling better prepared to analyse existing and future data in collaboration with others, and independently. Many research ideas were exchanged between the participants during the course of the week, and I hope that many seeds for future collaborations were planted. I returned from South Africa feeling inspired by the passion of the young African scientists who will shape the future of the genetic research in the continent. It will be exciting to read their published findings in the coming years.
For more information on this course and for future dates please visit: http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/education-resources/Courses-and-conferences/Advanced-Courses-and-Scientific-Conferences/overseas-workshops/wtx059190.htm.
I would like to thank Kirk Rockett, Gavin Band, Heidi Hauser, Luke Jostins, Geraldine Clarke, Adebowale ‘Adeyemo, Tulio de Oliveira and Ayesha Motala for their time and effort which ensured the success of this year’s course.