Build on genomic advances to benefit the poor
October 27, 2011 Editor 0
The scientific community must make a concerted effort to build on advances in genomics research if it is to benefit people in resource-poor settings, says Stephen Baker, head of enteric infections at the Wellcome Trust’s Major Overseas Programme at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, United Kingdom.
There are plenty of genome sequences, says Baker, but the value of such research is less easy to pinpoint. For example, although ten years ago the genome sequencing of the microorganism that causes typhoid fever made elimination a realistic target, promises of bespoke treatments, next-generation vaccines and low-cost diagnostics have failed to materialise.
The reasons for this are “depressingly obvious”, writes Baker. The people and communities affected by typhoid do not have the power to influence the scientific community or decision-makers, who tend to come from a wealthier background where direct contact with the disease is limited. And there are no advocacy groups for typhoid or other diseases of poverty.
Major international donors, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, prioritise diseases using metrics and tables — but because typhoid is difficult to detect, global prevalence is probably underestimated and the disease drops down the list of priorities in international assessments.
Much of the funding and technological expertise needed for genomics research and follow-up studies are found in countries removed from the realities of the disease. By contrast, sequencing the HIV virus, which affects wealthier countries, has led to remarkable progress in public health practice. This shows that strong scientific investment alongside political and community support is essential for reaping the benefits of genomicsresearch.
Unless these issues are addressed, genomics research runs the risk of persisting as an exciting academic advance that does little to improve public health, argues Baker. He suggests that funding agencies give genomics researchers the opportunity to see how the infection affects endemic countries, and support collaborations “that aim to bridge the geographical and technological gap”.
- Assessing the implementation and influence of policies that support research and innovation systems for health: the cases of Mozambique, Senegal, and Tanzania.
- Getting more out of nature: Genetic toolkit finds new maximum for crop yields
- Effective Management over Government Led Research: A Study of Research Institutions in Gambia
- Coffee genome sheds light on the evolution of caffeine
- Preparing for distant collaboration: Antecedents to potential absorptive capacity in cross-industry innovation
- Crowd-funded micro-grants for genomics and an actionable idea connecting small (artisan) science, infrastructure science, and citizen philanthropy.
Subscribe to our stories
- Entrepreneurial Alertness, Innovation Modes, And Business Models in Small- And Medium-Sized Enterprises December 30, 2021
- The Strategic Role of Design in Driving Digital Innovation June 10, 2021
- Correction to: Hybrid mosquitoes? Evidence from rural Tanzania on how local communities conceptualize and respond to modified mosquitoes as a tool for malaria control June 10, 2021
- BRIEF FOCUS: Optimal spacing for groundnuts in smallholder farming systems June 9, 2021
- COVID-19 pandemic: impacts on the achievements of Sustainable Development Goals in Africa June 9, 2021