Story at a glance

  • At least $1 billion will be used to expand genomic sequencing in the U.S., the process by which virus DNA is decoded in a lab and mutations can be identified.
  • “When we arrived, the U.S. was sequencing only a small fragment of what other countries were. This hampered our ability to find and react to these new variants,” Andy Slavitt, White House coronavirus adviser, said Friday.
  • The funding comes from President Biden’s nearly $2 trillion relief package.

The White House on Friday announced plans to invest $1.7 billion to ramp up efforts to identify and track coronavirus variants that could spark another severe wave of infections. 

At least $1 billion of those funds will be used to expand genomic sequencing in the U.S., the process by which virus DNA is decoded in a lab and mutations can be identified. The funds will go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), states and cities to bolster their existing coronavirus strain surveillance efforts.


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The process is an important component to the pandemic response as it allows labs to identify COVID-19 variants and track the prevalence of those strains in populations. 

“Despite having world-class researchers and dedicated state and local public health leaders, when we arrived, the U.S. was sequencing only a small fragment of what other countries were. This hampered our ability to find and react to these new variants,” Andy Slavitt, White House coronavirus adviser, said Friday. 

“What we call surveillance — our ability to spot variants as they emerge and spread — is vital, particularly as we aim to get ahead of dangerous variances before they emerge, as they are in the Midwest right now,” he said. 

The Biden administration also plans to spend $400 million on partnerships between state health departments and academic institutions for research into genomic epidemiology. The remaining $300 million will go to build a “national bioinformatics infrastructure” to handle the research data. 

The funding comes from President Biden’s nearly $2 trillion relief package. 

The move comes as a more contagious variant of coronavirus known as B.1.1.7., which was first identified in the United Kingdom, has become the dominant strain in the U.S. Public health officials have warned about the emergence of other variants that could potentially make vaccines less effective. 


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Published on Apr 16, 2021