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USAID, Broad, Illumina Partner to Help with Ebola Genome Surveillance in West Africa

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Illumina have partnered to help with Ebola genome surveillance in several West African countries that have been affected by the epidemic.

As part of their partnership, they will equip facilities in West Africa with genome sequencing technology, train personnel to sequence viral genomes from outbreaks, and extend Ebola surveillance operations.

Sequencing and patient monitoring facilities will be created first in Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, and longer term in other West African countries. These centers will also deploy mobile laboratories to remote areas.

Researchers led by Pardis Sabeti at the Broad Institute have already been collaborating with groups in Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone for several years, training them to use sequencing and diagnostic technology, and they plan to extend their work to Liberia.

"The generosity of our partners will enable our outstanding African collaborators to provide real-time information about the circulation and mutation of Ebola virus strains, which is critical for keeping diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies up to date," Sabeti, an associate professor at Harvard University and a senior associate member of the Broad, said in a statement. "And, importantly, this partnership will build long-term strength in Africa for genomic surveillance."

Illumina will provide its MiSeq sequencing platform to several African laboratories, starting with the groups of Christian Happi at Redeemer's University in Nigeria and Daouda Ndiaye at Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Senegal. Labs in Liberia and Sierra Leone will also receive MiSeq instruments. Happi's group plans to use the equipment to sequence samples from the 20 confirmed and suspected Ebola cases from the Nigerian outbreak that ended in October.

Eleven researchers from Nigeria and Senegal have already completed training in genomics at the Broad Institute this summer, with support from the National Institutes of Health and the World Bank.

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