Translating Technical Advances in Genomics to the Developing World: Addressing Cultural Needs as Part of Policy Making

Professor of Genomic Medicine, J. Craig Venter Institute, San Diego, CA, Honorary Professor of Medical Sciences, University of Limpopo


Technical and computational advances in generating and deciphering the DNA code of living organisms (including the human genome and microbiome) have revolutionized medical research efforts, including those targeting emerging and persistent infectious diseases (EPID). However, these efforts have largely targeted the world outside of Africa. Africa, the continent with the largest genomic, linguistic, cultural, and EPID diversity, is only now seeing the first signs of these advances. Major limitations to accessing genomics consist of social (including cultural) and economic factors. The world outside of Africa needs to address the significant role Africa has played and continues to play in shaping the globe, from our human origins to the large biodiversity that has led to a number of EPID outbreaks. The societal and economic challenges that face all 54 African countries calls for a concerted effort from the international community. Building bridges between non-African and African countries, where communication and flow of technology and information is unidirectional, is the ultimate way that Africa can embrace western technology and that non-African countries can embrace African culture. This paper will address why the western world needs to embrace African culture to be successful in translating technical advances in genomics within the region.