Rockefeller Foundation to Fund Helix’s SARS-CoV-2 Viral Surveillance Efforts

RNA strands inside corona virus
[Source: Joao Paulo Burini/Getty Images]

The Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute (PPI) announced that it will provide support to population genomics company Helix’s nationwide effort of SARS-CoV-2 surveillance efforts via funding for infrastructure, data systems, and technology. The intent of the partnership is to provide greater connectivity to other surveillance efforts and to also advance the public health need for more comprehensive viral sequencing.

“Omicron’s rapid spread continues to highlight the need for durable pathogen surveillance capabilities that will allow local communities to prepare for and prevent pandemic outbreaks,” said Rick Bright, SVP of Pandemic Prevention and Response at The Rockefeller Foundation and CEO of the PPI in a press release. “Helix’s ability to deploy, coordinate and deliver the latest laboratory and data capabilities for national viral surveillance illustrates the importance of public-private partnerships in pandemic prevention efforts now and in the future.”

Since early in the pandemic, Helix has applied its next-generation sequencing technology to help track the spread of SARS-CoV-2 via its work with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over that time, Helix’s public data sharing dashboard has provided reporting to state public health, health systems and other health care institutions. In addition, the company has published more than a dozen pre-print and peer-reviewed studies detailing the viral sequences, some of which has predicted the spread of the virus across the country.

While the current surveillance efforts are focused on alleviating the effects of the pandemic, the use of NGS sequencing to better understand the evolution and spread of the virus can also be applied to any future viral outbreaks.

“We are excited to partner with the Pandemic Prevention Institute to develop sustainable data generation and exchange technologies for improved pathogen surveillance,” said James Lu, CEO and co-founder of Helix in a prepared statement. “These capabilities are indispensable today for COVID-19 and will similarly be essential for monitoring other respiratory pathogens like pandemic influenza. Accelerating new technologies will enable provider systems and public health to rethink how they care for their populations.”

The Rockefeller Foundation’s PPI seeks to help build systems that detect, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, with the goal of fast and effective containment. The PPI’s mission is to integrate cutting-edge technology and analytic approaches that make data actionable and to develop a federated data network worldwide  to enable collaborative leadership at the global level.

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