Intercontinental university genomic medicine partnership celebrates grant success


An early, success of the year-old DGEMBE genomic medicine collaboration, between Manchester and Cape Town universities, is the award of a £600K grant for combined work on congenital heart disease.

DGEMBE’s (Developing GEnomic Medicine BEtween Africa and the UK) principal aim is to develop a partnership between the two universities in rare disease research.

Leading the three-year initiative for The University of Manchester (UoM) are Professor Bernard Keavney, BHF Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Academic Lead for MAHSC Cardiovascular Domain, and Professor Graeme Black, Director of the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine.

Professor Keavney is the Principal Investigator on the new congenital heart disease research project, funded with a £600K injection from The Medical Research Council Global Challenges Research Fund Foundation. The project will establish the first large-scale prospective study of congenital heart disease in Africa.

A second DGEMBE milestone was reached in December when a team of researchers from Manchester visited Cape Town. This followed a successful visit to Manchester from the University of Cape Town (UCT) scientists in January 2016.   Professors Black and Keavney led the visit to South Africa.

The meeting, held over 3 days, included talks on genomic research themes at both universities, including cardiovascular, eye, ear, skin and hair and fibrosis, and a tour of the UCT facilities.

Hlengiwe Moloi described her successful experience as an exchange PhD student at UoM. Further reciprocal placements, another key partnership aim, are currently being planned for this Spring.

Financial support for DGEMBE comes from The Newton Fund, part of the UK’s official development assistance, which aims to develop science and innovation partnerships; promoting economic development and the welfare of developing countries.

The third key goal of DGEMBE is to develop a critical mass of young South African researchers in rare disease.

If any MAHSC colleague, not yet involved in DGEMBE, would like to participate please contact Bernard Keavney or Graeme Black.

* DGEMBE gets its name from the traditional African hand drum.