A new partnership aims to build the largest integrated clinical and genomics data biobank in Africa, representing a major boost for RWD research across the continent.
The collaboration is between BC Platforms (BCP), a global leader in genomics research, analytics and global data access, and the African Institute of Everyone Genome (AiEG), a South African genomic company which is 100% black-owned and controlled.
AiEG is supported by the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology, based in Zimbabwe and South Africa. EveryoneGenome project hopes to begin successfully impacting the lives of millions of Africans under the slogan “Black DNA matters.” The company seeks to foster a progressive movement that will empower African research participants, communities and researchers to engage with, and benefit from, genomic research and biobanking in a fair and mutually beneficial manner.
As part of the collaboration, BCP’s platform will enable RWD research, involving 10M+ consenting patient genomes from all 54 African countries, to be collected by AiEG over a period of 10-15 years. The main goal of the research will be to enable drug development and clinical research for patients in sub-Saharan Africa.
To date, global investment in African genome research has been lacking, with only 1% of total funding directed towards genomics research and clinical studies in Africa. 
In terms of human genomic analyses, only around 5000 to 10,000 whole African genomes have been studied, in contrast to up to 1 million genomes globally. This contrasts with the fact that 25 per cent of the world’s population is expected to be based on the African continent by 2050.
This significant growth sits alongside a current and ongoing increase in pharmaceutical expansion, with the estimated value of Africa’s pharmaceutical market growing to $20 billion in 2018. The importance of understanding the full genetic diversity of patients in sub-Saharan Africa is critical for drug development: novel target identification, validation and early insights into adverse events. It has been well described that the genetic diversity represented by patients from the African continent is the greatest in the world. 
As part of the Strategic Data Partnership with AiEG, BC Platforms is providing a cloud-based, scalable Discovery and Research Platform, made available to AiEG and commercial researchers via Microsoft Azure. AiEG has built a large footprint of public and private healthcare entities and experienced research clinicians who consent patients for sharing clinical and genomic data for research. The first pilot cohort of patients is anticipated to be engaged in October 2021.
BCP’s role will enable research collaborations with drug developers, data management and preparation of analysis-ready datasets and leading with global best practices in patient data privacy and security.
BCP’s CEO Tero Silvola said: “Supporting regional genomics initiatives and RWE research is an important part of our vision to build the world’s leading analytics platform enabling rapid drug development.
“We understand the importance and significant opportunity involved in ensuring that African data is represented in Life Sciences research in the near to long term.”
Joe Mojapelo, CEO at AiEG, added: “Our goal is for African DNA to be studied on its own and be part of clinical trials for new and novel therapies treating a truly global population. Through the RWE that will be produced by future studies in collaboration with BCP, leveraging their integrated cloud-based platform alongside our region-leading database, we are keen to contribute to a new world of research equity. This means promoting access to African genomic data and one day eradicating unnecessary side effects for the people of South Africa, the African continent and eventually the global African diaspora.”
1. Pennisi, E. Africans begin to take the reins of research into their own genomes. Science, 4 February 2021. https://www.science.org/news/2021/02/africans-begin-take-reins-research-their-own-genomes
2. Ning Yu, Feng-Chi Chen. Larger Genetic Differences Within Africans Than Between Africans and Eurasians. GENETICS, May 1, 200.2.