Massachusetts to Establish New England Pathogen Genomics Center of Excellence

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has been selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of five national recipients to establish a Pathogen Genomics Center of Excellence to foster and improve innovation and technical capacity to better prevent and respond to infectious-disease outbreaks.

The funding of $25 million over a five-year period will establish DPH as a regional center for developing state public-health laboratory genomics capability and epidemiologic application of genomics to public health. DPH’s partners include the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard as lead academic partner along with Boston University, Yale University, Fathom Information Design, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Theiagen Genomics.

The four other regional centers designated by the CDC are the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services, and the Washington State Department of Health. Combined, these Centers of Excellence will serve as a network to perform a landscape analysis of gaps, needs, and opportunities for genomics in the U.S. public-health system; pilot and implement genomics technologies and applications for public health; educate and train health departments on the use of genomics; and prepare for and respond to infectious-disease threats.

“We have learned a lot about the power of genomics, particularly the role of viral variants in disease outbreaks,” Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke said. “This new funding and collaboration will help us build on what we’ve learned responding to COVID-19, as well as to Zika, mumps, hepatitis A, and other infections of public-health importance.”

Nationally, a total of $1.7 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act is helping to support current and future genomic surveillance. These funds include $400 million for innovation, and approximately $90 million of this amount will support the Pathogen Genomics Center of Excellence network over the next five years.

“The Massachusetts COVID-19 response has relied on our many colleague laboratories, institutions, and organizations, including universities and partners in the medical, public-health, and scientific community,” said DPH Assistant Commissioner Kevin Cranston, director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences. “We believe this Center of Excellence will spur new innovation and inform how we address future public-health threats.”