Despite the significant human health and disease burden in Africa, no biomedical data science graduate degree
programmes in computational omics, clinical informatics and translational research are offered on the continent.
To foster research training that will cultivate graduates able to respond with agility to future biomedical data
science needs and develop innovative solutions to address African health challenges, formal interdisciplinary
training in biomedical data science is needed. Such training opportunities should include: (i) Biomedical data
science applied to data from multi-omics and other technologies, such as biomedical imaging, coupled with the
ethical, legal and social Implications of these advances; (ii) Fundamental and advanced concepts in machine
intelligence and computational paradigms for developing novel approaches for mining large-scale biomedical
data; and (iii) Awareness, amongst graduates, of career opportunities within biomedical data science along with
how the soft and hard skills gained in the training program could be transferred into a range of
biotechnology/biomedical industries and research/professional careers.
Motivated by these needs and leveraging the expertise in clinical and translational research as well as biomedical
informatics at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), we propose to develop the “Computational Omics
and Biomedical Informatics Program” (COBIP) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The program will
introduce graduate degree programs to train African biomedical data scientists and faculty in rigorous
fundamental data science, computational omics, clinical informatics and imaging data science. COBIP will lead
to the development of solutions that address the African disease burden and are relevant to global health.
Specifically, we aim to: 1) Develop an interdisciplinary data science training program focused on the health and
healthcare needs and priorities of Africa; 2) Train faculty with relevant disciplinary backgrounds, from
collaborating African institutions, in biomedical data science to support the development of the field across the
continent; and 3) Establish COBIP as an international center of excellence in computational omics and
biomedical informatics, distributed across African institutions as a collaborative network of faculty, researchers,
and students focused on the African health priorities.
COBIP will attract cohorts of trainees from diverse backgrounds including mathematics, statistics, informatics,
computer sciences, engineering and biomedical sciences. COBIP will provide innovative educational
infrastructure and research opportunities as well as links between clinicians, researchers and biomedical
industries through placements and internships. COBIP, through its graduates, will have decisive impacts on
African biomedical data science research and stimulate diagnostics, therapeutic selection and drug development
to support improved human health and healthcare in Africa and globally.