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R28 million Fogarty grant bolsters bioinformatics training in Africa
Author: FMHS Marketing & Communications
Published: 26/06/2024

Professors Marlo Möller and Samantha Sampson from Stellenbosch University's (SU) Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics have secured a R28 million grant from the US National Institutes of Health's Fogarty International Centre. The five-year funding will bolster bioinformatics training in Africa, focusing on infectious diseases, particularly tuberculosis (TB).

The grant supports the African Tuberculosis Bioinformatics Training Programme, which aims to train African students in bioinformatics, TB biology, research and more.

Möller, co-lead on the project, emphasizes the importance of this type of training on the continent. “TB is a major public health issue on the African continent. The training programme will address the dearth of trained bioinformaticians with expertise in TB and other infectious diseases," says Möller, a professor in molecular biology and human genetics at SU.

This collaborative initiative involves SU's Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) and Science, along with partners in Africa and the United States (US), including Dr Paul Edlefsen, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

The FMHS' Prof Gerard Tromp, a programme partner, highlights the critical role of bioinformatics of modern biological research. “Bioinformatics is critical for modern biological investigations to convert large volumes of data into information by combining the disciplines of biology, computer science, and statistics. Due to the multidisciplinary nature, there is a great shortage of bioinformaticians and a need for education and training.

“The African TB Bioinformatics Training Programme is essential to fill the TB bioinformatics needs in southern Africa," explains Tromp, a bioinformatician with the FMHS.

Prof Hugh Patterton, Director of SU's Centre for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, explains how the training will equip students with the required skills. “The planned programme will provide a skillset to students to utilise powerful computational methods, including artificial intelligence, to distil insight from complex biological and health data sets not possible with conventional approaches."

“The programme will equip trainees with bioinformatics and research skills to position them as future innovators and leaders in infectious diseases research," says Sampson, a professor in molecular biology at FMHS. “This integrated approach will make a big impact on the current bioinformatics landscape in Southern Africa."

More information on the programme, including the planned implementation date, will be made available once the accreditation and registration processes have been finalised.

Caption: Profs Marlo Möller and Sam Sampson. 

Photo credit: Dr Elizna Maasdorp