Genomics & sequencing

We are working to strengthen next-generation sequencing and genomic surveillance for improved diagnosis and surveillance across low- and middle-income countries.

Sequencing is a process used to understand the genetic makeup of a biological organism.

Next-generation sequencing (NGS) collectively describes various high-throughput, rapid, and scalable sequencing technologies that are used to determine the DNA or RNA sequence of the complete genome or part of a genome. NGS enables rapid identification of unknown pathogens, discovery of novel genetic variations, and improved understanding of disease-causing pathogens, to inform the development and utility of tests, treatments, and vaccines. An increasingly critical application of sequencing is genomic surveillance, which uses sequencing data to identify outbreaks of existing or novel pathogens – for example, new SARS-CoV-2 variants. Genomic surveillance allows us to understand how pathogens are introduced and spread through a population.

Our focus is integrating NGS in healthcare systems to improve diagnosis and strengthen genomic surveillance of infectious diseases in low- and middle-income countries. We are establishing the use of NGS technologies for the diagnosis of drug-susceptible and drug-resistant TB, as well as genomic surveillance of COVID-19, antimicrobial resistance, and other outbreak-prone diseases. Bringing the power of sequencing closer to communities with a high burden of disease will help people get diagnosed more quickly and allow selection of the most effective treatment regimens.

As part of the ACT-Accelerator diagnostics pillar Genomic Surveillance Working Group, we have worked to strengthen genomic surveillance capacity in low- and middle-income countries as part of the COVID-19 response. We are also working on sequencing for AMR surveillance and viral haemorrhagic fevers.

COVID-19 genomic surveillance

Genomic surveillance is being increasingly used for SARS-CoV-2 to track and monitor the spread of variants and inform public health action.