Precision Medicine Heads to Namibia
News Nov 27, 2018
A nationwide genomics initiative in Namibia will bring the benefits of precision medicine to the southern African republic. Global Gene Corp is collaborating with the University of Namibia as well as the Namibian Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation to make this health milestone a reality.
Moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach, precision medicine uses genetic information to tailor treatment to suit each individual. The idea is that every patient gets the right dose of the right drug, avoiding unnecessary treatments and side effects while reducing healthcare costs.
However, nearly 80 per cent of the genetic datasets used to inform the development and use of precision therapies are collected from white Western populations, with less than 5 per cent of available data accounting for more than 60 per cent of the world’s population.
This failure to take global genetic diversity into account means that people with more diverse genetic backgrounds are missing out on potentially life-saving advances and could even be harmed by ineffective or inappropriate treatments.
Global Gene Corp has been working to solve the issue of global genomic diversity, collecting and analysing genetic datasets from populations all over the world, applying innovative analytics to develop insights for healthcare and pharmaceutical research that will bring precision medicine to a truly global market.
After fruitful joint discussions, the company has now established a collaboration with the Government and the University of Namibia to develop a national genomics initiative, aiming to study the genetic makeup of the Namibian population and use these data to develop relevant precision medicine approaches. There are additional plans to build a Centre of Excellence in Genomics in Namibia to improve skills and training in this fast-growing area of healthcare research.
Namibia sits within the region of Africa that is widely believed to be the home of the world’s most ancient human race. Today’s population of 2.1 million consists of more than 10 different tribes and ethnic groups, all of which are likely to have their own genetic variations that influence health, disease and response to treatment.
The country’s forward-looking policies make it perfectly placed to take advantage of the benefits of genomics and personalised medicine. Looking further ahead, the proposed initiative is a stepping stone to rolling out genomic research and precision medicine more widely across Africa – a continent with more genetic diversity than anywhere else in the world.
Witnessing a Letter of Intent to move forward with the collaboration, Her Excellency Dr Itah Kandiji-Murangi, the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, said “Healthcare is changing, and there is an opportunity for Namibia and our fellow African nations to leapfrog to precision medicine. To enable that we need to ensure that our diverse populations are part of genomic research and development programmes. We look forward to teaming up with Global Gene Corp to see how we can bring the benefits of precision medicine to our people.”
Global Gene Corp’s chairman and chief executive officer Sumit Jamuar said, “The human genome is a global genome, and we believe that the promise of personalised medicine should be available to everyone, wherever they are in the world. We’re excited to be working with our partners in the Government and University to make this a reality, not just in Namibia but more widely across Africa in the future.”
Speaking on behalf of the University of Namibia, Prof. Kenneth Matengu, Vice Chancellor, said, “Precision medicine is an exciting prospect, but these therapies will only be as good as the genetic data that are used to develop them. We welcome the opportunity to more fully investigate the genetic makeup of the Namibian people and find out how this impacts on health, and to use this information to improve personalised healthcare in the future.”