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


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.



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.