Despite the fact that African populations harbor the greatest level of human genetic diversity in the world, they are sorely underrepresented in genetic studies — particularly in studies related to psychiatric genetics. Within the field of mental health, genetic data are the key to identifying genes and variants that contribute to psychiatric conditions, and to developing new biomarkers, diagnostic tests, and treatment options for these conditions. As those data do not currently reflect African populations, a great deal of promising biology is likely being missed, as are opportunities to improve mental health care globally.
To address this knowledge gap, the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute, in partnership with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has launched Neuropsychiatric Genetics in African Populations (NeuroGAP), a major global psychiatric genetics initiative in Africa.
The main goal of this partnership is to advance the genetic analysis of serious mental illness, while contributing to global mental health equity, by expanding infrastructure and research findings in Africa.
NeuroGAP consists of two research arms:
- NeuroGAP-Psychosis, focused on the genetics of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
- NeuroDev, focused on the genetics of childhood neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other cognitive and developmental delays)
In addition, NeuroGAP includes two initiatives intended to build research capacity in Africa, with the goal of fostering local neuropsychiatric genetics research communities in participating countries:
- Global Initiative for Neuropsychiatric Genetics Education in Research (GINGER), a global neuropsychiatric genetics training and career development program
- the Oxford Global Initiative in Neuropsychiatric GenEthics, (NeuroGenE), a global bioethics research and capacity building initiative that also provides practical advice and training on the ethics of neuropsychiatric genetics research involving populations in Africa and elsewhere