AFRICA – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is investing about US$74.5 million over five years to advance data science, catalyze innovation and spur health discoveries across Africa.

Under its new Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa) program, the NIH is issuing 19 awards to support research and training activities.

DS-I Africa is an NIH Common Fund program that is supported by the Office of the Director and 11 NIH Institutes, Centers and Offices.

Awards will establish a consortium consisting of a data science platform and coordinating center, seven research hubs, seven data science research training programs and four projects focused on studying the ethical, legal and social implications of data science research.

This initiative has generated tremendous enthusiasm in all sectors of Africa’s biomedical research community,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) will develop and manage the initiative’s open data science platform and coordinating center, building on previous NIH investments in UCT’s data and informatics capabilities made through the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) program.

UCT will provide a flexible, scalable platform for the DS-I Africa researchers, so they can find and access data, select tools and workflows, and run analyses through collaborative workspaces. UCT will also administer and support core resources, as well as coordinate consortium activities.

The research hubs, all of which are led by African institutions, will apply novel approaches to data analysis and AI to address critical health issues.

Scientists in Kenya will leverage large, existing data sets to develop and validate AI models to identify women at risk for poor pregnancy outcomes; and to identify adolescents and young healthcare workers at risk of depression and suicide ideation.

A hub in Nigeria will study SARS-CoV-2 and HIV with the goal of using data to improve pandemic preparedness.

In Uganda, researchers will advance data science for medical imaging with efforts to improve diagnoses of eye disease and cervical cancer.

Scientists in Nigeria will also study anti-microbial resistance and the dynamics of disease transmission, develop a portable screening tool for bacterial infections and test a potential anti-microbial compound.

A project based in Cameroon will investigate ways to decrease the burden of injuries and surgical diseases, as well as improve access to quality surgical care across the continent.

From a hub in South Africa, researchers will study multi-disease morbidity by analyzing clinical and genomic data with the goal of providing actionable insights to reduce disease burden and improve overall health.

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