Sickle Cell Disease Genomics Network of Africa

DNA Webinar

Illustration of Dr Kofi Anie's (Community Engagement Core Lead) presentation at the 13th H3Africa Consortium Meeting by Alex Cagan

Overall Strategy of the Network


Brief Summary of the Network

Nearly 2% of births in sub-Saharan Africa are affected with sickle cell disease (SCD). Bacteria-related deaths in SCD have reduced dramatically in children in the last 30 years in the West, and it is anticipated that a similar drop will occur in Africa once prevention and prompt management of infections becomes widely implemented on the continent. During this same period, the death rate among adolescents and adults with SCD has not improved largely because we cannot predict, prevent and effectively

manage the end-stage organ damage typical of this disease. The SickleGenAfrica Network is made up of African scientists and international collaborators who are going to study 7,000 children and adults with SCD in Africa to identify genetic markers associated with the development of organ damage, with a special emphasis on the body’s defense against molecules released from damaged red blood cells that cause tissue injury. The long-term goal of the network is to develop strategies to predict, prevent and treat organ damage in SCD.



To align the survival of individuals who have sickle cell disease in Africa with national norms.



To develop prognostic biomarkers of organ damage through the discovery of key genetic modifying factors and cognate mechanisms, and build capacity and career pipelines in Africa to support patient-centered research to advance the development of innovative therapy for SCD.



The Grant

Largest single NIH award to the University of Ghana; $5.5 million dollar over five years.

It’s a collaborative grant with five African university partners.


o University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana

o Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana

o Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria

o University of Abuja, Abuja, Nigeria

o University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria

o Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Science, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


Other partners providing technical assistance in sample storage and data analysis are:


o Human Virology Institute Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria

o University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

o University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA

University of Ghana

Collaborating Institutions

Scientific Cores

1. Education and Science:

The recruitment of an internationally renowned research

scientist Professor Ofori-Acquah from a top university in the US to Ghana to head the School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences as Dean. This reverse-brain- drain has

paid dividends quickly with the Professor:

a. Wining a multimillion dollar US grant to Ghana to study sickle cell disease

b. Transforming running of the School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences.

c. Instituting a new program to support medical students to use their long-vacation

to do laboratory-based research internships.

4. Innovation and Genomics:

This will be the first project globally to look for genes that

influence individual ability to fight severe hemolysis and its impact on the rapid clinical deterioration seen in sickle cell patients during crisis. This work is of national importance

because one out of every 50 children born in Ghana have sickle cell disease.

2. Brain recirculation:

The project will bring additional internationally renowned faculty in sickle cell disease including Dr. Kofi Anie, MBE, to Ghana to help build a new type of research in the country focused on genes, and the public’s perception of genetic



3. National Capacity-Building:

The project will be used to create a new Center of

excellence in sickle cell disease in Ghana similar to sickle cell center in the US, to bring together physicians, nurses, community health workers, and researchers under one big

comprehensive umbrella.

5. Sowing the seeds for a Ghana genome project:

The project will create one of the largest DNA biobanks of Ghanaians, paving the way for a national programme that can support training of young Ghanaians in new technologies of analyzing DNA and the information it contains, and providing a DNA service in many areas including clinical diagnosis, forensics and food safety.


Administration & Examination Hall Building.

School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences.

University of Ghana,

Korle Bu, Accra, Ghana


+233 303 970949


SickleGenAfrica is funded by NIH Common Fund Award / NHLBI Grant Number U54HL141011

The SickleGenAfrica website content is solely the responsiblity of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

© 2017 SickleGenAfrica