On April 16, the Biden administration announced an investment of $1.7 billion to improve the detection, monitoring, and mitigation of SARS-CoV-2 variants and to build infrastructure for future genomic sequencing needs. The funds were made available through the passage of the American Rescue Plan (P.L. 117-2) [refer to Washington Highlights, March 12].
According to the fact sheet released by the administration, the funding — both immediate and long-term — will be allocated toward three separate initiatives. To expand capacity for genomic sequencing, states and other jurisdictions will receive an initial distribution of $240 million in May 2021, with additional future funding to follow that will reach $1 billion.
Through a second funding mechanism, $400 million will be used to establish six Centers of Excellence in Genomic Epidemiology, which will function as partnerships between academic institutions and state health departments. These centers could “focus on developing new genomic surveillance tools to better track pathogens of public health interest with the objective of developing surveillance methods to be used more widely in the public health system.” Further details about the Centers of Excellence are expected in the coming months.
The final initiative will devote $300 million to build and support a National Bioinformatics Infrastructure. This initiative will “support bioinformatics throughout the U.S. public health system, creating a unified system for sharing and analyzing sequence data in a way that protects privacy but allows more informed decision making.” In addition to the creation of a single bioinformatics system, the funding will also “support training to increase sequencing in clinical settings and expand CDC’s Bioinformatics Fellowship program.”
The AAMC joined nearly 50 organizations in April 28 letters to House and Senate appropriators urging support for the CDC’s Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) program, which coordinates the CDC’s SARS-CoV-2 sequencing efforts and has “played a critical role in the response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.” The organizations recommend $60 million for the AMD in fiscal year 2022 to support innovation in public health through microbial genomics, embed the AMD fully in state and local health departments, and expand government partnerships with academic research institutions.