In a first for Africa, the entire human genome has been broken down and analysed on South African soil. It comes 10 years after the International Genome Project was completed. The genome contains all the body's hereditary information, including genes and DNA.
While the world is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA double helix this year, few people realise that, to date, DNA sequencing of complex genomes like that of humans – requiring highly sophisticated instruments, technical expertise and super computing power – has not been possible on the African continent.
In 2011 Stellenbosch University (SU) received a grant from the National Research Foundation to acquire a SOLiD 5500xl Next Generation Sequencer. Nicknamed MegaMind, it was deployed in the DNA Sequencing Unit that forms part of SU's Central Analytical Facilities. Earlier this year MegaMind sequenced a human genome – the first time that this has been done on the African continent.