NeuroGAP-Psychosis Project Holds Its Annual General Meeting

The NeuroGAP-Psychosis Project, part of a large multi-country global consortium of genetic studies of psychosis led by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University held its annual general meeting on April 17, 2019 at Sheraton Addis Hotel in Addis Ababa.

The Annual General Meeting deliberated on the progress of the project from the four participating countries, and discussed the successes and challenges. In this meeting, Ethiopia was hailed as the leader in terms of number of participants recruited in the past one year.

In her opening remark, Dr. Mitike Molla, Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer of the AAU, applauded the collaboration between AAU and Harvard University and the opportunity it has created for capacity building for genetics research at College of Health Sciences (CHS), AAU. She also highlighted the research activities being undertaken by AAU and emphasized the importance of mental health research in improving services by generating evidence.

Solomon Teferra (MD, PhD), Associate Professor of Psychiatryat CHS of AAU, Visiting Scientist at Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health and Principal Investigator of NeuroGAP-P- Ethiopia warmly welcomed the participants and addressed that, Ethiopia is globally lone country among low and middle income countries to be pioneer in mental health research especially in psychosis.

“We faced tough challenges, especially at the initial phase, but here we are celebrating the success of the past one year not only in Ethiopia but across all the sites who were able to accomplish the impossible task of doing such a complex work, the first of its kind in Africa to be done at such scale” Said Dr. Solomon.

Prof. Karestan Koenen, Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at Harvard University and overall Principal Investigator of NeuroGAP-Psychosis project, presented an overview about NeuroGAP-P. Anne Stevenson, Program Director of NeuroGAP-Psychosis also presented the detailed progress report of the project since its inception.

The Global Initiative for Neuropsychiatric Genetics Education in Research (GINGER), capacity building initiative under NeuroGAP-Psychosis project, has been training 17 fellows in human genetics research from the 4 participating countries, including 4 fellows from Ethiopia in the past two years contributing to capacity building of the institutions in these countries.

As of April 12, 2019, more than 1,600 participants (826 controls and 784 cases) have been enrolled in the study in Ethiopia. DNA extraction has been done from 1,273 participants’ saliva samples in-country using facilities available at the Microbiology lab at the School of Medicine in CHS, AAU.

The “Neuropsychiatric Genetics of African Populations-Psychosis Ethiopia project” (NeuroGAP-P- Ethiopia) was launched on April, 2018 by Department of Psychiatry of the College of Health Sciences (CHS) of AAU, in collaboration with Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University.

The aim of the study is to uncover genes contributing to the development of severe mental illnesses, mainly schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in African populations, which have been hitherto underrepresented in global psychiatric genetics research.

The research project is a multi-site collaboration research involving four African countries, namely Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda is the largest human genetics research conducted in Ethiopia to date, planning to recruit a total of 35, 000 participants from all sites, including 8,000 participants from Ethiopia (4,000 cases from Amanuel Mental Specialized Hospital and 4,000 controls from Tikur Anbessa Hospital) over a period of 4-5 years.