Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ: ILMN) has committed US $60 million in sequencing capabilities to a global pathogen genomics initiative, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other public and private entities. The initiative expands on the Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative (Africa PGI) announced in October 2020, and will help create a comprehensive pathogen genomic network around the world, building critical public health capabilities in areas of need.
Illumina will donate next-generation sequencing (NGS) platforms, reagents, and training support worth approximately US $60 million over five years. The expanded scope will begin with a focus on South Asia, equipping national public health institutions with better public health tools, bringing us closer to the vision of an early warning system for global pathogens.
“Rapidly identifying outbreaks and tracking their spread and evolution will save lives around the world and is essential to strengthening health care systems,” said Francis deSouza, Chief Executive Officer of Illumina. “Genomics has the power to revolutionize the way public health entities manage biological threats, and this global initiative will help make NGS technology and expertise accessible in areas of need.”
“Expanding access to pathogen sequencing will accelerate efforts to detect new epidemics before they spread widely and to monitor their transmission in real time for more targeted and precise response. Pathogen sequencing will also contribute to research and development efforts for new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for current and emerging infectious diseases,” said Trevor Mundel, President of Global Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “It’s critical to empower scientists in South Asia, like we’re doing in Africa, with the tools they need to stay one step ahead of pathogens.”
The model for the global initiative builds upon the framework of Africa PGI by bringing together key partners from public health institutions, government, private industry, and local labs to create a comprehensive ecosystem of support for successful genomics adoption, which extends beyond simply dropping in new technology. The initiative will consider issues such as logistics, training, and sustainability, and will expand by country depending on maturity and needs. Prioritized pathogens will be unique to each country or region, as the initiative empowers individual countries to drive the program according to their specific needs and priorities.
Genomics can enable early detection of novel viruses by rapidly characterizing new pathogens directly from specimens. Building pathogen genomics capabilities globally protects the health of everyone, since a threat in one place can quickly become a threat everywhere. In the future, genomics has the potential to concurrently provide comprehensive diagnosis of infections, antimicrobial resistance information, and pathogen surveillance for known and emerging threats.
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