US establishes $ 1.7 billion national network to track virus variants

Washington – The United States has set up a $ 1.7 billion national network to identify and track nasty coronavirus mutations whose spread can cause another pandemic wave, the Biden administration said Friday. Announced in.

White House officials have announced a strategy that features three elements. Large-scale funding from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department of Health to enhance genetic mapping of coronavirus samples. Creation of six “Center of Excellence” partnerships with universities to develop research and technology for gene-based monitoring of pathogens. Build data systems to better share and analyze information about emerging infectious disease threats, enabling knowledge to be put into action.

A new initiative that relies on funds approved by Congress as part of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package is a cycle of famine or famine in US preparations against the biological threat that coronavirus is just one example. The aim is to break through what the experts say. Others include Ebola and Zika fever, and respiratory viruses such as SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012, but these were not major issues in the United States. Governments usually scramble to counter potential threats, but when money recedes, it runs out. The new Genome Surveillance Initiative aims to create a lasting infrastructure.


“This is a transformational amount,” said Mary Lee Watts, director of federal affairs at the American Society for Microbiology, in a recent interview. “Not only can we stay ahead of the current crisis, but it will also be useful in the future. This is a program that has been underfunded for years.”

According to CDC data, the Biden administration’s move came as a variant known as B117, which first appeared in the United Kingdom, and became the dominant stock in the United States. .. Vaccines are effective against so-called UK variants, but other mutations prevalent around the world show resistance to currently available vaccines.


“In order to even have the potential to return to normal by the fall, genome surveillance needs to be significantly expanded,” said Esther Krofah, who directs the Milken Institute’s FasterCures initiative. “This is an insurance program that needs to be implemented now and in the future, not only for COVID, but also for other pathogens of concern.”

Genome sequencing essentially involves mapping the DNA of an organism. This is the key to its unique functionality. It’s done by high-tech machines that can cost hundreds of thousands to over a million dollars. Technicians trained to run machines and computing power to support the entire process increase costs. Another hurdle is to bring all local, state, and federal laboratories together.

According to the CDC website, the CDC and collaborative lab completed only 116 coronavirus gene sequences per week at the end of last year. According to the White House, the current number of weeks is about 29,000, but experts say that in large and diverse countries like the United States, these numbers are much higher to accommodate potential changes in the virus. You need to do a lot. The virus is very efficient at spreading and produces mutations that allow it to continue to reproduce.


White House officials said the government has released the first $ 240 million of the $ 1 billion allocated to expand genomic sequencing to states and territories. An additional $ 400 million will be used to launch six research partnerships with an academic institution called the Centers of Excellence in Genomic Epidemiology. Finally, $ 300 million will be spent setting up a data sharing system called the National Bioinformatics Infrastructure.

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US establishes $ 1.7 billion national network to track virus variants

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