(Boston)—Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine is one of eight partners chosen by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to take part in the Pathogen Genomics Center of Excellence (PGCoE) network to help foster and improve innovation and technical capacity to better prevent and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.
The Massachusetts DPH was selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of five national recipients to establish a Center. The funding of $25 million over a five-year period will establish DPH as a regional center for developing state public health laboratory genomics capability and epidemiologic application of genomics to public health.
In addition to Boston University, the other partners are the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Yale University, Fathom Information Design, Massachusetts General Hospital and Theiagen Genomics.
Leading the research at Boston University is John H. Connor, PhD, associate professor of microbiology. He and his team are studying how rapid sequencing of viral genomes can be paired with contact tracing data to understand how and where disease gets spread. “We need a greater understanding of where transmission happens and what practices can keep people safe” says Connor, who also is a researcher at the Boston University National Emerging infectious Diseases Laboratories.
The four other regional centers designated by the CDC are the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services, and the Washington State Department of Health. Combined, these Centers of Excellence will serve as a network to:
- Perform a landscape analysis of gaps, needs, and opportunities for genomics in the United States public health system
- Pilot and implement genomics technologies and applications for public health
- Educate and train health departments on the use of genomics
- Prepare for and respond to infectious disease threats
“The Massachusetts COVID-19 response has relied on our many colleague laboratories, institutions, and organizations, including universities and partners in the medical, public health, and scientific community,” said DPH Assistant Commissioner Kevin Cranston, Director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences. “We believe this Center of Excellence will spur new innovation and inform how we address future public health threats.”
Nationally, a total of $1.7 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan is helping to support current and future genomic surveillance. These funds include $400 million for innovation, and approximately $90 million of this amount will support the Pathogen Genomics Center of Excellence network over the next five years.