In order for the promise of personalised medicine to be realized, a thorough understanding and description of the genetic variants that affect drugs side effects and therapeutic response must be realized for all populations in the world. Although certain populations can have the patterns of genetic variation imputed or extrapolated from other related populations, African populations are too heterogeneous to extrapolate genetic information from one population to the other without missing additional variants of pharmacogenetics relevance. In these early days of 2012, Africa has become the ‘epicenter’ of genomics research investments with the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Initiative that is accelerating the study of genomics and environmental determinants of common diseases in the African continent. This paper focuses on the status of genomics/pharmacogenomics research in Malawi. The Republic of Malawi is located in Southeast of Africa and its population is made up of eight major native ethnic groups (Chewa or Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Lhomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni and Ngonde) as well as Asians and Europeans. We herein identify a series of gene-centric knowledge gaps that need to be addressed urgently to advance population pharmacogenomics in Malawi. We also underscore the need for research attention and investment in personalized genomics for this African country. The genetic data obtained from the few previous studies show that frequencies of polymorphism in different genes among Malawians are not similar to other African populations, indicating again the need for population specific genomics research across Africa, if the goal of global personalized medicine is going to be achieved equitably for all populations of the world.
Keywords: Bantu population, cancer, global genomics, HIV/AIDS, Malawi, malaria, pharmacogenetics, Southern Africa