H3AFRICA CALL FOR PROPOSALS | DEADLINE 24 MARCH 2017

       

Background

In 2012, the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Wellcome Trust, and the African Society of Human Genetics launched the Human Heredity and Health in Africa Initiative (H3Africa). Recognising that African researchers and populations have been, and still are, substantially underrepresented in genomics and environmental research and disproportionately affected by some environmental exposures,

H3Africa is designed to provide new opportunities for African scientists to lead research on the genetic and environmental contributors to health and diseases of importance to Africa through the use of genomics and other cutting-edge approaches.

For further background on the origin and development of H3Africa, see the article “Research Capacity: Enabling the Genomic Revolution in Africa” Science (2014) 344: 1346-1348, and the H3Africa website.

In October 2016, the Wellcome Trust announced it is shifting the centre of gravity of its funding for African science from the UK to the African continent itself.  Accordingly, the Wellcome Trust awarded the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) a grant to be managed and delivered through the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA).

AESA was launched in 2015 as an initiative of AAS and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency with the support of the Wellcome Trust, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). 

AESA ‘s mission is to drive Africa’s research and development agenda and build scientific capacity across the continent.  AESA seeks to achieve this mission by pursuing the following strategic goals:

1. Targeting critical gaps in the research landscape

2. Building R&D environments that support a vibrant research culture and leadership development over the long-term

3. Supporting the development of an innovative and entrepreneurial culture

4. Identifying and supporting rising research leaders to stay and build their careers in Africa.

Wellcome has made a £9m grant to AESA to run a second phase of the programme in partnership with the US National Institutes of Health. (NIH). The NIH will manage their awards, while AESA will be responsible for the delivery of the Wellcome Trust component of Phase II awards for the H3Africa initiative and will manage the H3Africa consortium in partnership with the Wellcome Trust and the NIH. In addition, AESA has entered into a collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as part of the Africa NCD Open Lab initiative, where additional funding will be made available to fund projects aligned to the Open Lab’s objectives.

H3Africa is organised as a research consortium that brings participants together in a highly collaborative and synergistic effort.  The H3Africa Consortium includes all participants of research and infrastructure projects funded through H3Africa, as well as responsible Wellcome Trust and NIH staff. 

Groups funded under this initiative will be expected to participate in the H3Africa Research Consortium and to collaborate effectively with each other to maximise the chances of overall success of the programme. 

Each funded applicant is expected to participate directly or via proxy in consortium working groups that establish rules, guidelines, and resources for the Consortium (a list of H3Africa Working Groups can be found here).

Thus far the Collaborative Research Consortium has developed a number of overall policies and guidelines (see http://www.h3africa.org/consortium/documents). 

All applicants are expected to recognise and adopt these policies and AAS grant conditions and policies for those funded through AESA (or else provide justification why a particular policy cannot be followed). 

In addition, the Principal Investigator(s) are active members of the H3Africa Steering Committee, which meets regularly by teleconference. The H3Africa Consortium generally holds two meetings per year, usually in Africa.

The African Society of Human Genetics will participate as a non-funding partner.

Scope and Objectives

Scope

The scientific scope of applications responsive to this funding opportunity announcement (FOA) should be broadly focused on using genomics and other cutting-edge approaches to understand how human genetic variation combined with environmental risk factors affect specific disease outcomes, exposures to specific disease, or impact other specific health-related traits in Africa. 

In this document, the term “genomics and other cutting-edge approaches” is used broadly and is intended to include approaches such as genetic epidemiology, phenotyping, biomarker development, pre-clinical research including the use of model organisms, and research on clinical utility, among others.  The term "environmental contributors" is also used broadly and includes physical, chemical, biological, behavioural, and social environmental factors, among others. 

It is envisaged that studies funded through the initiative will inform subsequent strategies to address the health inequities in both non-communicable (NCDs) and communicable diseases (CDs), leading to new approaches for public health benefits such as the use of precision medicine for Africans.

The scope for NCDs may include but is not limited to cancer, chronic kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, mental illness, neurological disorders, and others.  Research involving communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, leishmaniasis, trypanosomiasis, schistosomiasis, ebola, lassa fever, and others of significant public health importance in Africa will be considered. Applications that explore the link between infectious disease and NCDs will also be considered.

Objectives and Purpose of the Call

In order to enhance the capacity for genomics and environmental health research, in Africa by African scientists, and to understand the genetic and environmental factors that determine disease susceptibility, H3Africa has four main objectives:

  • To support human genomics and genetics research that will not only generate important findings and discoveries relevant to human health but will also serve as a vehicle to improve the research capacity of African laboratories and provide research opportunities for young scientists at the institutions where the research is carried out.
  • To expand expertise and experience in genomics-based biomedical research and environmental epidemiology in Africa through research excellence, skills development and mentoring of the next generation of genomics researchers and enhanced collaborations with regional, national, and international partners.
  • To improve infrastructure including bioinformatics and biorepository capacity needed to support genomics-based and environmental research and associated data and sample sharing.
  • To cultivate a culture of community engagement within research projects across the consortium. Community engagement can include a variety of activities, such as broad consent for sharing of samples and data, recontact of research participants, return of results to individual participants, or other relevant topics.

 

What's Included

Awards can be up to a maximum of £2.5 million, but projects smaller in scope from emerging African scientists are encouraged. Projects can be up to 4 years in duration and can include the following:

  • Support for staff
  • Materials and consumables
  • Equipment purchase and maintenance
  • Community engagement
  • Travel, training and network meetings.

(READ: AAS Cost Guidelines)

Successful Proposals will:

  • Bring together research groups from more than one African country, to study a defined scientific question(s) that will advance our understanding of the genetic and environmental determinants of a specific communicable or non-communicable disease(s) of importance to African populations (see below). Collaborative research projects must include at least three collaborating partners based in African institutions that will interact to provide the complete capacity needed to carry out the proposed research effort.
  • Include, as appropriate, researchers in ethics and the social sciences, to develop models of best practice with respect to the ethical, legal and social aspects of the proposed research.
  • Include a community engagement component to facilitate the building of trust relationships with research participants as an essential feature of ethical biomedical and population-based genomics research involving human subjects (www.h3africa.org/consortium/documents)
  • Follow the principles of H3Africa as outlined below:
  1. Share data and samples across the initiative.
  2. Collaborate across the initiative with regards to training next generation scientists and use of infrastructure, such as bioinformatics and biorepositories.
  3. Follow best practices with respect to ethical, legal and social issues and participate in community engagement drives.
  4. Follow best practices at the institutional level regarding the management and administration of the award.

 

Eligibility

The lead institution of each successful H3Africa collaborative project must be based in Africa. Institutions may be required to provide the following additional information at the preliminary application stage, to enable us to assess their eligibility to receive funding:

  • A statement of support from the head of the administering institution, explaining the mission of the institution and indicating how the proposal fits within the context of its strategic vision.
  • Details of the main source(s) of funding and a description of the institution’s legal status, and whether it is able to enter into legal agreements in its own name and on its own account.

Awards will be made to the lead institution. We expect the Principal Investigator to be based at the lead institution for the duration of the grant and to be responsible for leading the overall management of the grant. 

Strong collaborations between institutional partners within African countries are encouraged, as are collaborations with institutional partners outside the African continent who are able to contribute additional skills, resources, supervision, and mentorship as required.

Applications must be submitted in English.

 

Additional Opportunities for Funding and Collaboration with GSK 

 

While applications submitted in response to this FOA may propose research in any disease or health area that falls within the broad areas of genetic and/or environmental contributors to disease or health research, there are also specific areas of interest to GlaxoSmithKline as part of the Africa NCD Open Lab initiative who are participating in this call.

GSK’s aim is to fund rigorous, high quality research that will address the application of genomics to disease mechanisms, epidemiology, pathophysiology and aetiology, or prevention and treatment of primary disease and associated complications in at least one of the following priority non-communicable disease (NCD) areas: cardiovascular disease, oncology, chronic respiratory disease, chronic kidney disease and diabetes. Successful proposals must demonstrate significant potential to scale up into further research.

GSK funding will be restricted to projects led from within the following countries; Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania & Uganda. South-South partnerships are actively encouraged and countries outside of this list can be included as sub-sites. Proposals focusing on drug development and public health interventions are out of scope. Details about the conditions for GSK awards can be found here

GSK awardees will largely be expected to follow the principles of H3Africa relating to data sharing, collaboration and best practice in genetics research, but at all times will comply with the requirements of their particular collaboration agreement with GSK. GSK awards will be made in GBP.

Where appropriate GSK will also provide scientific expertise through training and skills transfer to support project delivery.

 

Conditions for Applicants for GSK Awards

 

Applications must be completed in English.

  • Abbreviations should not be used in the application unless fully explained.
  • The outcome of the selection of funded proposals will be final, binding and not open to appeal.
  • The grant can be used to fund direct costs related to the project only, which includes costs for equipment, field work and data collection, consumables and research assistance, travel to conferences, subsistence and conference fees.
  • Institutions may request overhead costs, not exceeding 8% of direct costs.
  • The principal applicant’s institution will be responsible for the receipt and administration of all funds.
  • All costs must be reasonable and justified and will ultimately be awarded at the discretion of GSK.
  • The grant can only be used to deliver the objectives stated in the grant application.
  • The grant may be used to contract out elements of the work where required. However the grantee is not permitted to make sub-grants.
  • The maximum term of the grant is three years from the date of the agreement being signed.  There is no minimum term.
  • Grants of up to £750,000 will be made.
  • Grants are made on the basis that the grantee commits to conduct all work to the relevant applicable global standard including but not limited to: Declaration of Helsinki, ICH GCP, ICH GMP and all locally relevant regulations.
  • Approved grants will have funds released in stages as required, in response to successful completion of prior stages of research and achievement of milestones.
  • Grantees must maintain transparent, adequate records to track use of the funds provided and the results recorded from the research.
  • Grantees are expected to publish research findings in quality peer-reviewed journals.
  • Applications will only be accepted from research teams led from Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania & Uganda. However, collaborations with centres outside of the applicant’s country but within sub-Saharan Africa are encouraged.
  • Each applicant can only submit one application. Multiple applications can however, be submitted by an institution.
  • Applications must be for work programmes that are lawful in the countries in which the work will be carried out.
  • Depending on the intellectual contribution associated with the proposal, successful grantees will be expected to sign a collaboration agreement with GSK which will be based on the relevant Lambert Agreement (or similar), as described at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/Lambert, with the further intention that results of the collaboration are shared for the broader benefit of the research community.
  • Applications must not be submitted for research, which would breach the intellectual property rights of other parties.  

 

Application Process and Deadlines

Stage 1 - Submission of preliminary application to AAS/AESA
Preliminary application forms should be submitted by 27th March 2017 through our Ishango Online Application Portal. 

The preliminary application will ask applicants to provide:

  • A brief summary of their proposed project (200 words)
  • The high-level aims and objectives of the network, the scientific questions/hypotheses it will address, and how they relate to the vision of H3Africa (750 words)
  • The approaches that will be used to achieve the objectives, including high-level targets, expected outcomes and role of each co-applicant (750 words)
  • A description of the strategy for community engagement and ethical challenges posed by this research and whether the applicants envisage any multidisciplinary research to inform best practice with respect to ethical, legal and social issues (500 words)
  • An indication of the level of support requested by each institution in the network
  • CVs of the principal applicant and all co-applicants
  • A list of major collaborators and their institutions.

Assessment Criteria

Preliminary applications will be assessed using the following criteria:

  • Scientific relevance to H3Africa initiative and to the AAS/AESA mission and/or applicable to GSK’s Africa NCD Open Lab objectives
  • Whether the applicants and collaborators together have the relevant expertise to deliver the proposed research
  • Whether the management and governance arrangements are appropriate
  • The relevance and quality of any training programmes, if applicable.

Invitations for full applications will be sent out by 26th April 2017.

A webinar for potential applicants will be held on the 9th March 2017, but if you have questions in advance of the webinar, please contact: H3Africa@aasciences.ac.ke.

Stage 2 - Full Application

If invited to submit a full application, applicants should complete and submit this online to AESA by 20:59 GMT on 14th July 2017. Uninvited or late applications will not be considered.

Full applications will be sent out for peer review and applications will be shortlisted for interview by a specially convened H3Africa committee.

Stage 3 - Interviews and Funding Decisions

Invitations for interviews will be sent out to applicants by 18th August 2017. A specially convened committee will conduct the interviews at the AAS/AESA offices in Nairobi, Kenya by 15th of September 2017. Successful applicants will be notified by 22nd September 2017.

Deadlines

Preliminary Application Deadline

20:59 GMT, 27 March 2017

Invitation to Submit a Full Application

28 April 2017

Full Application Deadline

20:59 GMT, 14 July 2017

Funding Committee Meeting

15 September 2017

Funding Decision Communicated

22 September 2017

Please note that all applications must be submitted in English through the Ishango Online Grants Management System.

apply for this opportunity

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Applicants, Grantees and for Public Use

1.What is the name of this project?

This project is called Human Heredity and Health in Africa, and designated H3Africa.

2.Who are the partners in this effort and what is their role?

The H3Africa Initiative is funded through a partnership between the U.S. National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Wellcome Trust, a global charity based in London, U.K.

In the first phase of the Initiative, which ended in 2016, the NIH and Wellcome Trust committed $64 and $12 million respectively for five years.  In 2016, the NIH committed another round of funding to support the Phase II of the project, which will run for another 5 years.  Wellcome Trust has also committed to supporting the second phase through the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), Alliance for Accelerating Science in Africa (AESA).  

Wellcome has made a £9m grant to AESA to run a second phase of the programme in partnership with the US National Institutes of Health. (NIH). The NIH will manage their awards, while AESA will be responsible for the delivery of the Phase II awards for the H3Africa initiative and will manage the H3Africa consortium in partnership with the Wellcome Trust and the NIH.

In addition, AESA has entered into a collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as part of the Africa NCD Open Lab initiative. Additional funding will be made available to fund projects relevant to the Open Lab’s objectives in specific sub-set countries (see call).

3.What is the goal of this project?

Organised to develop large-scale population studies by African researchers on African populations, H3Africa aims to use the new tools of genome research in combination with clinical and environmental analyses to understand the interaction of genes and the environment in health and disease. In addition, H3Africa is intended to create new research capabilities in Africa, both in terms of infrastructure and in the creation of new collaborations between African researchers and researchers in the United States, Europe, global South and elsewhere. It also intends to foster collaborations between researchers in different parts of Africa.

4.What research techniques will be used by H3Africa?

H3Africa researchers will employ a wide range of genetic and genomic tools appropriate for the studies selected for funding. Genomic tools will likely include a genomic analysis of genetic variation using genotyping arrays used in genome-wide association studies, or exome or whole genome sequencing.

Other genomic technologies, such as proteomics and metabolomics may also be applied. In addition, individual projects will carry out careful clinical analyses of study participants (blood pressure for hypertension studies, for example), as well as environmental and cultural assessments to understand non-genetic contributions to health and disease.

5.Where will the genomic and genetic tests be carried out?

Although H3Africa is intended to build capacity in Africa, it may be that studies will rely on existing genome facilities in Africa, or in partner countries such as the United States and Europe.  It is anticipated that H3Africa will help develop leadership skills in genomics and that adequate genotyping and sequencing capacity will be developed in Africa.

6.Why are genetic studies being carried out on African populations?

All humans trace their heritage to Africa, where humans first evolved and then migrated around the globe. Previous studies, such as the International HapMap Project and the 1000 Genomes Project, have shown that African populations have the greatest amount of genetic variability.  Genetic variation between individuals has been shown to affect the risk of developing different diseases.

By studying African populations with the greatest amount of genetic variation, especially in relation to clinical findings and environmental information, researchers expect to learn a great deal about the genetic roots of diseases that afflict Africans and other human populations across the globe.

7.What kinds of diseases will H3Africa study?

H3Africa will focus broadly on two types of diseases:  communicable and non-communicable.  The role of genetic variability in infectious diseases is not fully understood, so one set of studies will focus on the interactions between disease-causing micro-organisms and human hosts.

Non-communicable disease would include common disorders such as hypertension, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and cancer, all of which are becoming widespread in African populations. H3Africa will seek to understand the interaction between genetic susceptibilities and environmental changes – such as diet – that may be leading to the increased morbidity and mortality.

8.How many individuals would be involved in an H3Africa study?

Typically, studies that evaluate genetic predispositions for illness include a few thousand individuals. The size of the study will likely relate to the availability of samples, but should be of a sufficient scale and design to ensure that disease-causing variants can be detected. Some studies in H3Africa may involve 10,000 or more individuals.

9.Will Africans who participate in these studies derive any benefit?

Yes, Africans who participate in these studies will derive immediate and long-term benefits. Study participants will, in many cases, receive medical examinations and screening tests. If disease conditions are detected, the individual will be so advised and referred for medical care (though not necessarily provided by the study).

Long-term benefits may be derived – both in Africa and in populations around the world – from the improved understanding of disease that leads to better diagnostics and treatments.

10.What do the research leaders hope to learn from genomic and environmental studies in African countries and their populations?

H3Africa will focus on both genes and environmental data in the expectation that it will lead to an understanding of how the interaction between both influences health and disease. Environmental factors are not limited to just nutrition and pollution, but also include cultural, religious, political and other social factors that may influence health. African populations carry the oldest, most diverse set of human genes; H3Africa provides an opportunity to see how these genes behave in different environments.

11.How will the partnership be managed?

H3Africa is organised as a Consortium that brings participants together in a highly collaborative and synergistic effort. The H3Africa Consortium includes all participants of research and infrastructure projects funded through H3Africa, as well as staff from AESA, Wellcome Trust, the H3Africa Coordinating Office, H3ABIONET and the NIH.

Principal Investigator(s) work closely with funder representatives on the H3Africa Steering Committee to oversee H3Africa Consortium activities and a number of Working Groups work to develop key policies and guidelines. Successful applicants or members of their team will be expected to participate fully in all H3Africa Consortium activities and attend the twice-yearly H3Africa Consortium meetings.

12.How will the funds be distributed?

Wellcome Trust has channelled its funding through AESA while GSK will directly fund projects of interest. Wellcome Trust, AESA and GSK have established mechanisms for awarding grants, which will be employed to ensure a fair and transparent competition process for awarding research funding. GSK funded projects will be managed by AESA and are expected to conform to the overall H3Africa consortium policies and guidelines together with any additional requirements of GSK. The deadline for the NIH call for 2017 has already passed and the process of identifying potential grantees is underway. 

13.What are the areas of interest for GSK and what countries can apply for the GSK funding?

GSK awards will be limited to research focused on improving the understanding of disease mechanisms, epidemiology, pathophysiology and aetiology, or prevention and treatment of primary disease and associated complications in at least one of the following priority non-communicable disease (NCD) areas: cardiovascular disease, oncology, chronic respiratory disease, chronic kidney disease and diabetes.

GSK funding will be restricted to projects led from within the following countries; Cameroon, Côte D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, South Africa and Uganda. South-South partnerships are actively encouraged and countries outside of this list can be included as sub-sites.

14. What is the role of the African Society of Human Genetics?

The African Society of Human Genetics (AfSHG) played an essential conceptualisation role that led to the development of H3Africa. AfSHG is a professional society of genetic researchers and health care providers across the continent and it serves as a convener for meetings to organize the genetic research community. In 2007 and 2009, AfSHG organised two meetings, in Egypt and Cameroon, to advance the idea of a project that evolved into H3Africa. AfSHG will remain engaged with the H3A community to advice and support.

15.Will the data collected by H3Africa be publically available in Internet-accessible databases for other scientists to use?

H3Africa is a project that will produce data that will be of great use to the wider research community, and as such, all of the data will be made freely available in public databases, and in accordance with all the joint funders data policies. 

The speed with which the data is made public may vary from project to project, depending on the available resources. H3Africa has a Data Sharing, Access and Release policy that has been developed that describes the data sharing policy and access procedures for the research community (http://h3africa.org/consortium/documents). Data and biospecimen requests will be through application to the H3Africa Data and Biospecimen Access Committee (http://h3africa.org/consortium/documents)  and data access will be via the European Genome-Phenome Archive (EGA). Data collation and transfer to the EGA will be facilitated by H3ABioNet (http://h3abionet.org), the dedicated informatics network for H3Africa.

16.Will African communities be consulted (as with the HapMap project) before individuals in the community are asked to participate in an H3Africa research project under this effort, or will only individual participants be asked to give informed consent?

Participants in individual studies will be asked to give informed consent to share samples and data. H3Africa recognises ongoing community engagement and the building of trust relationships with research participants as an essential feature of ethical biomedical and population-based genomics research involving human subjects. Community engagement can include a variety of activities, such as broad consent for sharing of samples and data, re-contact of research participants, return of results to individual participants, or other relevant topics.

The goal is to help communities understand the research aims of H3Africa and that it may have an impact on their health, but it is not expected that the consultation will be as extensive as HapMap.

17.Will biological samples – blood, DNA – be taken out of Africa?

H3Africa supports three Biorepository Programmes located in Eastern, Western, and Southern Africa.  All DNA samples collected as part of an H3Africa project must be deposited in one of the H3Africa Biorepositories according to H3Africa policies (www.h3africa.org/consortium/documents) so that they can be distributed and shared for further research consistent with achieving the goals of this funding initiative. 

Other biological samples may also be banked for future use.  Samples may be shipped out of Africa for genomic or other ‘omic’ analysis if a particular project relies on such facilities through another, non-African partner.

18. Do the terms governing GSK funded awards differ to those funded by AESA and NIH?

GSK awardees will largely be expected to follow the principles of H3Africa relating to data sharing, collaboration and best practice in genetics research, but at all times will comply with the requirements of their particular collaboration agreement with GSK.