Employing institution: MRC/UVRI and LSHTM, Entebbe, Uganda

Host institution: Imperial College London, UK

Project title: Repurposing drugs with genetic evidence for cardiovascular diseases in Africans: mendelian randomization study.

Dr Soremekun obtained his Ph.D. from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where his research focused on identifying small molecular weight inhibitors of immune proteins. At the moment, he is employed as a post-doctoral fellow at the MRC/UVRI and LSHTM. His current research focus is on understanding the genetic components and inter-relationships between cardio-metabolic traits in people of African ancestry. He was inspired to pursue a career in research when learning about the vast scientific possibilities that may be unlocked by studying African genome.

AREF Fellowship:

Epidemiological studies have shown strong associations between circulating proteins in the blood and the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). In most cases, it is unclear whether this represents a causal link or not, which hampers our ability to develop or repurpose drugs for such targets.

The contribution of genetics to the variability of circulating biomarker proteins can be explored in genome-wide association (GWA) studies. Importantly, Mendelian randomization (MR) can be applied to test whether GWA study loci that are associated with circulating levels of plasma biomarkers are likely to represent a causal relationship or not. This therefore represents an important tool to inform drug repurposing or discovery, but there has been no such systematic scan of the blood proteome in continental African population for novel causal mediators of CVD.

The main objective of this project is to conduct a MR study which will utilise genotype data from Africans to investigate potential causal proteins associated with CVD. These results will help predict some prospective drug targets that may be tailored to treat CVDs in African population.

Dr Soremekun’s placement is at Imperial College London where he will be mentored by Dr Dipender Gill. He will gain expertise in Mendelian Randomization (MR) analysis to identify novel drug targets and repurpose drugs for cardiovascular diseases in African population. On his return to my Employing Organization, with the support of the training department, he will be organizing a workshop on Mendelian Randomization and apply for funding for his project.

“Africans are underrepresented in genomics research hence affecting implementation of personalized medicine. I intend to change this narrative by increasing Afrocentric-genomic data and building capacity in genomics science.”