This week the CDC launched a system called SPHERES: SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology and Surveillance (SPHERES). This group, this new national genomics consortium, aims to facilitate large-scale, rapid genomic sequencing of the virus that causes COVID-19. That, in turn, will ideally allow public health experts to achieve several goals.
The SPHERES consortium will coordinate SARS-CoV-2 sequencing across the United States in order to control and eradicate COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2. Sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 will allows public health experts to do the following:
• Monitor important changes in the virus as it continues to circulate.
• Gain important insights to support contact tracing.
• Provide crucial information to aid in identifying diagnostic and therapeutic targets.
• Advance public health research in the areas of transmission dynamics, host response, and evolution of the virus.
The SPHERES consortium was announced to be led by the CDC’s Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) program. At launch, the SPHERES group includes 37 state and local public health laboratories, as well as “several” large regional and national clinical diagnostic corporations, and “academic and non-profit leaders in pathogen genomics, bioinformatics, and public health from across the country.”
SPHERES includes Federal Agencies and Laboratories, State and Local Public Health Laboratories, Academic Institutions, Corporations, Non-Profit Public Health and research Laboratories, and works to collaborate with international organizations of many types.
The SPHERES consortium includes the CDC’s AMD, Argonne National Laboratory, the Defense Health Agency’s Global Infectious Disease Surveillance group, and the Food and Drug Administration. SPHERES also includes the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information.
SPHERES includes the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research as well as the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Also in the consortium at launch is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Office of Genomics and Advanced Technology.
Corporations in SPHERES include: Abbott Diganostics, Agilent, AKESOgen, ATCC, Beckman Coulter Inc, bioMérieux, Color Genomics, Fluidigm Corporation, Ginkgo Bioworks, IDbyDNA, IHRC Inc, Illumina, In-Q-Tel, Integrated DNA Technologies, and Invitae Corporation.
Also on the list of corporations in SPHERES are LabCorp, New England BioLabs, One Codex, Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Pacific Biosciences, Qiagen Quest Diagnostics, Roche Diagnostics, Swift Biosciences, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Twist Biosciences, and Verily Life Sciences.
OF NOTE: The CDC made clear that the corporations that’ve joined the consortium are “provided for information purposes only, and their inclusion here does not constitute an endorsement of the corporations or any of their commercial products or services by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.