The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Illumina, Inc. today announced they have entered into a public-private partnership to help combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
The partnership will train local and outbreak-deployed personnel to sequence viral genomes from the outbreak, and will extend surveillance operations. Genome sequencing of the virus is critical for genomic surveillance—tracking how the virus is moving and changing in real-time. This information may influence the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies.
The partnership will equip facilities in West Africa with state-of-the-art genome sequencing technology that will aid in Ebola response now and in clinical monitoring and pathogen surveillance in the future.
Sequencing and patient monitoring facilities will be created first in Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, and over the longer term in other West African countries. These centers will serve as hubs for the deployment of mobile laboratories to remote districts where large-scale capacity is not available.
“The United States is embracing a new model of development—one grounded in a focus on innovation, local leadership, and public-private partnerships to accelerate progress in the most challenging places,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “By partnering with experts from the Broad Institute and Illumina, we can give health workers the tools they need to win the fight against Ebola.”
A team of researchers led by Pardis Sabeti from the Broad Institute has been working with collaborators in Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone for many years, training them to use state-of-the-art sequencing and diagnostic technology. Leveraging this experience, the team will also move to enable similar work in Liberia, the country hit hardest by the outbreak.
“We are thrilled to be working with USAID and Illumina,” said Sabeti, an Associate Professor at Harvard University and a Senior Associate Member of the Broad Institute. “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. And, importantly, this partnership will build long-term strength in Africa for genomic surveillance.”
“This is an urgent situation that needs our immediate attention,” said Rick Klausner, Chief Medical Officer of Illumina. “Illumina’s MiSeq sequencing platform, with turnaround times of 4-24 hours, will provide high-throughput capacity for the analysis of heavy sample loads.”