The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced the availability of cooperative agreement funds for this fiscal year to establish the US Pathogen Genomics Centers of Excellence (PGCoE) network.
The Biden Administration initially announced plans for the PGCoE network in July 2021, with the objective to foster innovation in pathogen genomics and molecular epidemiology in order to improve the control of and response to microbial threats of public-health importance.
Standing up the PGCoE will accelerated translation of relevant pathogen genomic technologies and innovations into the US public health system, particularly in public health agencies at the local, state, tribal, territorial and national level; improve training of the public health workforce in microbial genomics and genomic epidemiology; and develop rapid and scalable use of pathogen genomics in responding to public health emergencies from infectious diseases in order to improve detection, characterization, and prevention of infectious disease threats.
The Centers of Excellence network is intended to enable the public health system to better respond to infectious disease threats with resilience, flexibility and the latest practical advances in laboratory technology, scientific computing, and applied research. The funded cooperative agreements will establish several centers of excellence, each consisting of a combination of a health department and one or more academic institutions with the purpose of working together as a network to establish a platform to develop and identify relevant areas of genomics and related technologies, adapt them for use in public health, and pilot their application in actual settings.
The network of health departments with their academic partners is expected to also implement three other high-level strategies: education of the public health workforce, including bioinformaticians, microbiologists, and epidemiologists, preparing to respond to infectious threats, and responding to infectious threats.
Rapid advances in genomic technologies are transforming public health, particularly the prevention and control of infectious diseases. “Next-generation sequencing”, bioinformatics, and genomic epidemiology are improving understanding of pathogen transmission and clinical features including of foodborne illness, tuberculosis, influenza, SARS-CoV-2, and antimicrobial drug resistant organisms. Bringing these advances into everyday public health is a priority and can also present a challenge, especially given the continued rapid evolution of genomics, bioinformatics, and related technologies.
The Pathogen Genomics Centers of Excellence are envisioned to include:
- Translation: developing, identifying, refining, evaluating, piloting, and implementing technologies and practices relevant to public health
- Education: developing practical training for public health professionals
- Response Base: developing capacity to respond to infectious disease threats
- Responding to infectious disease threats by applying genomic technologies and synthesizing diverse data
- Lead network educational activities and develop an online training program
The public health agencies will be the prime recipients of their respective awards and are expected to bring deep understanding of public health priorities and practice as well as needs of the public health workforce. The academic centers (sub-recipients) are expected to bring expertise in microbial genomics and genomic epidemiology and access to innovation and novel, relevant technologies. The intent is for these groups to work synergistically together, accelerating the application of genomics and related technologies in public health, focusing initially on the U.S. but with an eye towards making innovations globally accessible. The PGCoE are expected to work together as a network, and with CDC, its programs, and other partners.
The translational strategy will be the main, ongoing focus of the PGCoE network and relies on
developing and identifying technologies and approaches that have relevance for public health,
adapting and evaluating those for use in public health, piloting those in real-life public health
settings and, if applicable, assisting in implementing those in the public health system. In this
sense, the PGCoE network is expected to be a U.S. public health system technology “incubator.”
The educational strategy relies on identifying relevant educational needs of public health bioinformaticians, microbiologists, and epidemiologists and developing training to address these needs. Training that is developed will be mostly online and asynchronous, although some in-person training may also be supported.
US Public Health Pathogens Genomics Centers of Excellence. Centers for Disease Control – National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID). Funding Opportunity Number: CDC-RFA-CK22-2204. Estimated Total Program Funding: $185,000,000. Estimated Award Date: 30 September 2022. Original closing date for applications: 17 May 2022.