The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investing $200 million in a new genome-sequencing pilot program to ramp up surveillance of COVID-19 variants, the administration announced Wednesday. The initiative will be run out of and overseen by the federal agency, but will rely on partnerships from other academic and scientific institutions, officials said.
National Testing Coordinator Carol Johnson said the program will attempt to scale the agency’s existing sequencing from 7,000 samples per week to about 25,000 a week, stressing the $200 million would kickstart a “pilot” program but was not enough to support sequencing efforts long term. More funding is needed through the president’s American Rescue Plan, she said.
“We remain in the midst of a very serious pandemic. The continued spread of variants… could jeopardize the progress we have made in the past month,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Wednesday, adding that it is unclear how long it will take the agency to scale up to sequencing to 25,000 samples a week.