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H3Africa pays tribute to outgoing NIH Director for supporting global health research


The Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Consortium would like to express our gratitude to Francis S. Collins, M.D., PhD, former Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for his enormous contribution to advancing global health research, and more specifically genomic research in Africa. Collins, who stepped down as NIH director on 19 December 2021, played a pivotal role in supporting African research through the NIH Common Fund. This included the impactful interventions that led to the founding of H3Africa Consortium in 2011. H3Africa facilitates genomics research into diseases on the African continent while also developing infrastructure, resources, training, and ethical guidelines to support sustainable research led by African scientists, for the African people and the world.

Inspired by his experience volunteering at a hospital in Nigeria early in his career and in being exposed to different ways of dealing with health challenges outside the United States, Collins went on to include global health research as one of his main focus areas during his tenure as NIH Director.

H3Africa Consortium members bring tribute to Dr Collins.

Charles Rotimi, PhD and recently appointed scientific director of the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) says: “I would like to express my profound gratitude to Dr Collins for his commitment to increasing diversity in biomedical research, especially his support for the establishment of the H3Africa initiative that has revolutionized genomics (biomedical) research across Africa.”

Alash’le Abimiku, Executive Director of the International Research Center of Excellence at the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria and Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Institute of Human Virology Baltimore, who is PI of the Breast Milk Microbiota Influence On Infant Immunity And Growth (BEAMING) and the H3Africa biorepository for the West African region (I-HAB) commented: “To see Dr. Francis Collins interact with the H3Africa fellows was so inspiring and underscores his vision in ensuring that the human genomics research in Africa continues to flourish as we invest in the younger generation of African scientists to carry the torch beyond what we are able to do for the benefit of millions”

Clement Adebamowo, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine, Baltimore and Principal Investigator of the African Collaborative Center for Microbiome and Genomics Research (ACCME), Nigeria, says: “Dr. Francis Collins in words and action showed a deep commitment to building capacity for ethical and scientific research in Africa, of which the H3Africa Initiative is but one of many examples. These programs enable African scientists to contribute at the highest levels of global health research, of which the scientists and their communities are immensely grateful and proud.”

Michele Ramsay, Director of the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience at Wits University in Johannesburg and Principal Investigator for the Africa-Wits-INDEPTH partnership for Genomic studies (AWI-Gen) says: “Dr Collins has been a catalyst for genomic research in Africa through his support of the African Society of Human Genetics over many decades and by enabling support for the H3Africa Consortium and Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa) initiative. Through his confidence in African-led research he has impacted the lives of many researchers on the continent, strengthening their careers toward becoming global players.”

Dr Michelle Skelton, PI and Project Manager of for the H3Africa Administrative Coordinating Centre & DS-I Africa Coordinating Centre said: “We look forward to working with Dr Collins in the future. He has always been so supportive of H3Africa, and he is such an inspirational global leader.”

Prof Nicky Mulder, PI of H3BioNet, Pan African bioinformatics network for H3Africa and head of CBIO division at the University of Cape Town said: “Thank you Dr Collins for your unending commitment to the development of research capacity in Africa. Your support of H3Africa has transformed the genomics landscape on the content”

The H3Africa Consortium wishes Collins many more productive chapters in his illustrious career, and in particular his ongoing research at the Centre for Precision Health Research, which explores the function of genes in human diseases with the aim of identifying therapeutic solutions for communities across the globe.