Africa Is the Most Genetically Diverse Continent, and Yet It Is Ignored in New Drug Research

opinion

Despite Africa representing the most human genetically diverse region on the planet, only 2% of genetic material used in medical research comes from the continent. Furthermore, Africa hosts very few clinical trials, which together means that clinical data used in the improvement of drug therapies largely excludes African populations.

Most of us will at one time or another, take medicine when we are not feeling well. But how much do we understand about how these medicines come about? Or how they produce the desired response? They don't magically appear on the shelf of the clinic, but rather are developed over many years by teams of scientists from disciplines including chemistry, biochemistry, and biotechnology. The overall process is known as "drug discovery", and it can take many forms.

Modern drug discovery often starts with an understanding of the biological processes that drive disease. It uses an understanding of the shapes and functions of molecules in our bodies to develop targeted medicines that recognise only those disease-associated molecules.

Traditionally, the approach has been a one-size-fits-all in the development of a new medicine. However, we are individuals, and so is our response to medicines. This individuality is driven at the level of the...

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