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Coordination Among Efforts

Some 75 labs across the US are joining a new consortium announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the SARS-CoV-2 genome, the New York Times reports.

The initiative, dubbed SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology, and Surveillance (SPHERES), aims to use viral genome sequencing to monitor changes that arise in the virus as it replicates, support contract tracing efforts, and help diagnostic and therapeutic endeavors, according to the CDC. In particular, SPHERES plans to develop a network of sequencing and bioinformatics labs as well as set data and metadata standards and promote data sharing.

Duncan MacCannell, the chief science officer at CDC's Office of Advanced Molecular Detection, which is overseeing SPHERES, tells the Times that genome sequencing and other tools have "fundamentally changed how public health responds in terms of surveillance and outbreak response." He adds that the initiative will provide coordination among sequencing efforts.

The consortium includes not only federal agencies and public health labs, but also academic, commercial, and non-profit labs, according to the CDC site. As GenomeWeb reports, the companies involved include Abbott Diagnostics, BioMérieux, Color, Ginkgo Bioworks, IDbyDNA, Illumina, In-Q-Tel, LabCorp, One Codex, Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Pacific Biosciences, Qiagen, Quest Diagnostics, and Verily Life Sciences.