CDC will invest $1.7 billion on genomic sequencing of viral threats

April 19, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plans to spend $1.7 billion to monitor and track emerging disease threats – including SARS-CoV-2 variants – through genomic sequencing, the White House announced at a COVID-19 task force briefing.

“What we call surveillance – our ability to spot variants as they emerge and spread – is vital, particularly as we aim to get ahead of dangerous variances before they emerge, as they are in the Midwest right now,” said Andy Slavitt, White House Senior Advisor on COVID-19 Response. “Right now, these variants account for nearly half of all COVID-19 cases in the United States, and we need more capacity in our public health system to identify and track these mutations.

The funds – which were allocated in the American Rescue Plan that was signed into law last month – are in addition to $200 million the government allocated earlier this year to increase genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2.

The CDC will use the money to pay for equipment, supplies, training, staffing, and electronic infrastructure for the CDC and state and local health departments. “State and local public health departments are on the frontlines of beating back the pandemic, but they need more capacity to detect these variants early on before dangerous outbreaks,” Slavitt said.

Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, Director of the CDC, noted that $300 million of the funds will be used to establish six Centers of Excellence in Genomic Epidemiology. The centers will operate “as partnerships between state health departments and academic institutions, and today’s funding will fuel cutting-edge research into genomic epidemiology. In this work, we will build our public health capacity to respond not just to COVID-19 but to future concerning emerging threats to public health.”

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