Meharry Medical College to Build Huge African Ancestry Genomics Research Database

Meharry Medical College in Nashville, along with partners Regeneron Genetics Center, AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and Roche, have announced the launch of the Together for CHANGE™ (Changing Healthcare for People of African Ancestry through an InterNational Genomics & Equity).

The Together for CHANGE initiative seeks to address inequities in STEM careers and research with a two-pronged approach. First, the Diaspora Human Genomics Institute (DHGI) will establish a grant program to support research and educational capacity in genomics and related fields at Meharry Medical College, as well as broader STEM programs in racially diverse communities for grade school-aged children. Second, in close consultation with the local Black community through listening sessions and ongoing input, the DHGI will help facilitate the building of the largest African ancestry genomics research database, composed of de-identified genomic and phenotypic data from up to 500,000 volunteer participants. Data from the National Institutes of Health show that globally less than 2 percent of genetic information being studied today originates from people of African ancestry.

AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and Roche have pledged to make contributions worth $20 million during the initiative, with Regeneron Genetics Center also undertaking and funding the sequencing of genetic samples.

“People of African ancestry have been underrepresented in genomics studies, which leads to clinical genetic testing that has less reference data and less confident testing results,” said Aris Baras, senior vice president of Regeneron, and head of the Regeneron Genetics Center. “At RGC, we know that genetic databases function best as global resources when they reflect humanity’s broad spectrum of ethnic and genetic diversity, so that the resulting research and medical innovation may benefit all populations.”

“Historically, African Americans have been – and continue to be – underrepresented in scientific and medical research, as well as in STEM careers, negatively impacting both health outcomes and career opportunities for this population,” said James E.K. Hildreth Sr., president of Meharry Medical College. “Working with our local community and biopharmaceutical partners, we are eager to bring to life a vision of more equitable health care through the Together for CHANGE initiative.”

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