C.D.C. Announces $200 Million ‘Down Payment’ to Track Virus Variants
As lawmakers pressured billions of dollars to fund the nation’s efforts to track coronovirus variants, the Biden administration promised to give about $ 200 million to identify emerging threats to begin the work. Announced a new effort.
The White House called it a “down payment”, saying the investment would significantly increase the number of positive virus samples that laboratories can sequester. According to the database, more than 9,000 genomes were sequenced last week by public health laboratories, universities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. GISAID. The agency hopes to increase its own contribution to 25,000 genomes a week.
CDC Director Dr. “When we reach 25,000, our resources depend on whether we are at our fingertips and how quickly we can mobilize our allies,” Rochelle Wallensky said at a press conference at the White House on Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s going to be a light switch. I think it’s going to be a dial.”
The program is the administration’s most important effort to address the emerging threat of more infectious forms of the virus. A version first identified in Britain has infected at least 1,277 people in 42 states, although scientists suspect the actual number is much higher.
Suspecting every 10 days, the B.1.1.7 version that emerged in the UK threatens to slow down or reverse the rapid decline of new coronovirus cases. What’s more, Dr. Valensky said the nation had seen its first case of B.1.1.7, which had acquired a particularly worrisome mutation that has been shown to blunt the effectiveness of vaccines in South Africa.
Other worrisome crops have also occurred in the United States, with one found for the first time in South Africa and weakening the vaccine.
Is FDA preparing For possible rescheduling of vaccines to better protect against new variants, but those efforts will take months. In the short term, experts say, it is important to increase sequencing efforts, which are Too small and unsymmetrical Adequately track where variants are spread, and how quickly.
Scientists welcomed the new plans of the Biden administration. “It’s a big step in the right direction,” said Bronwyn McInnis, a geneticist at the Broad Institute.
Dr. MacInnis stated that the “minimum gold standard” would be the sequencing of 5 percent of the virus sample. If cases continue to decline, 25,000 genomes a week will put the country near that threshold, he said, “where we need to detect not only known threats, but also emerging threats.”
Trevor Bedford, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said national sequencing efforts since December had “substantial benefits”. Nevertheless, he said that the CDC would also need to improve the gathering of data about the genome – as it is a tie for information from contact tracing – and then to quickly support mass analysis on computers. All is necessary to make sense.
“There is a lot of focus on raw calculation, which we are sequencing instead of turning time,” he said. ”
White House officials cast the sequencing ramp-up as part of a broader effort to test more Americans for the virus. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense on Wednesday announced substantial new investment in testing, including $ 650 million for elementary and middle schools and “undersubscribed mandibular settings” like homeless shelters. The two departments are investing $ 815 million to speed up the manufacture of test supplies.
The CDC’s $ 200 million sequestration investment is dwarfed by a program proposed by some lawmakers as part of an economic relief package that Democratic congressional leaders aim to pass before mid-March. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, introduced legislation to step up her indexing efforts. House lawmakers have allocated $ 1.75 billion for the effort.
In an interview, Ms. Baldwin suggested that the government should aim to sequester 15 percent of positive virus samples, which researchers believe is possible in the near term.
“It is intended to form the basis of a sustainable infrastructure that will allow us to not only monitor for Kovid-19, be on the leading edge of discovering new variants, but we will also have the potential for other diseases.” He said about her proposal. “There is a significant gap in our knowledge.”
In an interview, the Biden administration’s new trial coordinator, Carroll Johnson, said the $ 200 million investment was a “down payment” and that it would just start a much more aggressive campaign to track variants.
“It is being able to look down on us: what are the resources that we have right now?” What can we do quickly? he said. “But know that we need large investments to move forward and there is a systematic way to do this work.”
Since 2014, the CDC’s Office of Advanced Molecular Detection has used genome sequencing to track diseases such as influenza, HIV, and food-borne diseases. But when the coronavirus epidemic hit the United States, the CDC was slow to adapt these devices to track coronaviruses. For weeks it only struggled to establish a test for the virus.
In contrast, Britain began A widely praised sequencing program Last March, with a central genomics lab taking advantage of its nationalized health care system. It now sequences up to 10 percent of all positive coronavirus tests and performs an in-depth, rapid analysis of results.
The CDC initiated surveillance efforts during 2020, helping academic laboratories, commercial sequencing companies and public health departments collaborate and share insights. In November, it invested in a program of its own called NS3 to analyze the coronovirus genome. Every other week, the agency asks state health departments to send at least 10 samples to its laboratory for sequencing.
In December, it became clear that those efforts would not be enough. Researchers in Britain found a new version, called B.1.1.7, which was 50 percent more variable than other variants. Scientists now suspect that it is probably even more deadly. In South Africa, another variant called B.1.351 proved not only to be more contagious, but less vulnerable to many vaccines.
CDC officials began to fear that B.1.1.7 was already spreading widely in the United States, according to a senior federal health official. They began setting up new trials, including contracts with lab testing companies that were running coronovirus testing.
Director of the Advanced Molecular Investigation Program, Dr. Gregory Armstrong said in an interview that his team came to the conclusion in January that sequencing 5,000 to 10,000 samples a week would be a good short-term goal.
“This is the starting point,” Dr. Armstrong said. “The more we sequence up, the sooner we’ll be able to pick up these variants.”
At a White House news conference later that month, Jeffrey D. Zeers, the White House’s Kovid-19 response coordinator, acknowledged how difficult it would be to reach that goal.
“We rank 43rd in the world in genomic sequencing – completely unacceptable,” he said, citing December data GISAID Database. In a later interview, he corrected himself, stating that America was behind 31 other nations.
In the early days of administration, Drs. Wallensky spoke of an initial target for CDC of 7,000 genome sequencing a month. Since then, laboratories have not come close to that figure.
Of agency National Genomic Monitoring Dashboard It is shown that he logged only 96 genomes in the week of February. 6. The following week, the figure increased to 1,382 genomes. Dr. Valensky’s new goal of 25,000 genomes a week will require a significant increase.
Katlin River, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that quickly putting $ 200 million into the surveillance variants before it would be a long-term improvement was a welcome development for her. “Time is of the essence,” he said. “The complementary investment package comes together, while an initial investment is a smart move to expand genomic surveillance.”
But he warned that the plan would not be immediately put into action. It may take a month to get the fundamental reforms done. By then, B.1.1.7 could already dominate American affairs and jeopardize the current decline.
Dr. Rivers said the larger program in the stimulus package would be important to manage the epidemic in the long run.
“We may not be too far away from B.1.1.7, but what will happen in the next one, three months or six months from now or next winter?” He asked. “It’s not always just a matter of you. It is coming around the corner. “