This talk examines the claim that Africans are under-served by genomic science, with a lens focused closely on pathogen genomics. In this young field, investigators infer the identity, subtype, properties, dissemination, and evolution of disease-causing microorganisms from the complete, or near complete, sequence of the DNA. Pathogen genomics is costly, but the science could be cost-effective because the potential knowledge value is high. However, knowledge that could address the high infectious disease burden in Africa, which is often used to justify pathogen genomics research, is accumulating more slowly than data. Iruka N. Okeke argues that to increase the yield of Africa-serving outcomes, African scientists should be pathogen-genomics team partners who use open-access data, own research questions, and drive experimental inquiry.
Iruka N. Okeke is a microbiologist specializing in antimicrobial resistance and Professor of Pharmaceutical Microbiology at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She is the author of Divining Without Seeds: The Case for Strengthening Laboratory Medicine in Africa (Cornell University Press, 2011). She received a Bachelor of Pharmacy and masters and doctorate degrees from Obafemi Awolowo University Nigeria, was a Fulbright pre-doctoral fellow at the University of Maryland, and was a Branco Weiss Society in Science Fellow from 2004 to 2009. She has served as a consultant on antimicrobial resistance for the Alliance for Prudent Use of Antibiotics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Disease Control Priorities Project, the Center for Global Development, and the World Health Organization.
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