Landmark Memorandum of Understanding between directors of the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory and the National Human Genome Center

By Dr. Georgia Dunston

Dr. Fatimah L.C. Jackson’s recent announcement of the successful isolation of DNA from a Cob Collection individual who died 85 years ago is an exciting benchmark of the newly established Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Dr. Jackson, director of the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory and Dr. Georgia M. Dunston, founding director & director of molecular genetics in the National Human Genome Center (NHGC) at Howard University. This MOU facilitates the research collaboration and publication between the NHGC and the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory on studies of the genomics of the Cobb Collection (CC) and the New York African Burial Ground (NYABG). It is imperative that collaborative high quality research on genomics be published in peerreviewed journals on these collections. The initial goal undertaken in this MOU is the genomic analysis (i.e., extraction, sequencing, interpretation) of the CC and NYABG individuals. Moreover, this MOU formalizes a new foundation for collaborative interdisciplinary team research at Howard University between the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Medicine that provides exciting new research, as well as research training opportunities at Howard University, for exploring how genome-enabled approaches are helping to rapidly advance our understanding of the complicated relationship between genotype, phenotype and the environment, particularly in health disparities. With its research focus on human genome variation expressed in population diversity and mission to explore the science and teach the knowledge of DNA sequence variation and its interaction with the environment in the causality, treatment, and prevention of diseases common in African Americans and the African Diaspora, the NHGC is uniquely positioned for this MOU research collaboration with the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory. Clearly, advances in whole genome science and next generation sequencing are changing the biological landscape of the social sciences and have catapulted biology and biomedical science into the mainstream of “Big Data Science” for public health and society. At this pivotal juncture in the evolution of DNA science and technologies and its application in clinical translation and health equity, this MOU is primed to provide leadership for America and the global community in the collection and analyses of genomicsbased “Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K)” relevant to emergent science and public policy on personalized genomics (i.e., President Barrack Obama’s 2015 Precision Medicine Initiative). ***