First- High through-put-genomics sequencing centre in Africa to decode genes

CAPE TOWN | The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) will launch a state-of-the art research facility that will refine the science of genomics for personalised medicine to unlock Africa’s diverse gene pool.

In 2018, this progressive initiative, was cemented through the signing of a formal collaboration agreement, between the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) and the SAMRC. BGI is leading the global scientific progress on genetic science and DNA sequencing, South Africa has identified an opportunity to build the country’s capacity for whole human genome sequencing and engage in an Afrocentric approach to reducing South Africa’s burden of disease.

Individual genome sequencing has become a crucial part of understanding and responding to disease as it creates the possibility to identify mutations, which are specific to each person. Having sight of these sequences assists in recognising the cause or stage of a disease and predicts the likely benefits or side-effects of a particular medication.

South Africans, having been exposed to medicines that were developed outside of Africa and researched on a different gene pool, will benefit from genome sequencing as their unique gene pool will be taken into consideration and consequently result in the development of more effective medicines that are unique to South Africans.

“The Centre is a national asset that will contribute to the better understanding of factors that impact on the health of South Africans and inform strategies to improve their response to diseases,” says SAMRC President and CEO, Prof Glenda Gray. “This initiative gives us an opportunity to enter into a new era of medical research as we are now a part of a small group of forward-thinking countries that are pioneering this type of much-needed innovation and skills to increase our capacity to sequence whole human genomes, analyse and store data.”

“The vision to enable such infrastructure will localise cutting edge genomic sequencing technology for the region and enable sustainable capacity development in not only genomic sequencing but data science,” says Rizwana Mia, leader of the precision medicine programme, who spearheaded this initiative within the SAMRC. She added that “Designing a state of the art cleanroom facility means we can house any high through-put sequencing technology. We have further invested in data storage infrastructure and hence allowing us to confidently create a large scale population genome programme to unlock our genetic diversity.”

The launch of the first-high through-put genomics centre takes place as follows:

When: Monday, 29 July, 13:00 – 15:00

Where: South African Medical Research Council NIVS Building, Francie van Zilj Drive, Parow Valley, Cape Town


About the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI)
BGI Genomics is the division of BGI Group that provides a full menu of next generation sequencing and clinical testing services to support academic research, drug development and diagnostics. The company operates service laboratories under global quality standards in the US, Denmark, Hong Kong and mainland China. BGI Genomics leverages its unequalled genomic research experience and massive sequencing capacity to provide customers with high-quality data, fast turnaround at affordable prices. More information is available at

About the South African Medical Research Council
The scope of the SAMRC’s research includes basic laboratory investigations, clinical research and public health studies. Research at the SAMRC focuses on the top 10 causes of death in South Africa. To assist with delivering on this vital mandate, the organisation is led by the National Department of Health, and works with other key stakeholders such as the Department of Science and Technology, South African and international science councils, medical schools, universities, research institutions and international collaborators. More information is available at

Technical Queries:

Rizwana Mia
Senior Programme Manager

Tel: +27 (21) 938 - 0984

Media Queries:

Keletso Ratsela
Media Strategist

Tel: +27 71 214 5272

Release date: 
Wednesday, July 24, 2019 - 15:12