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Helix To Advance And Scale Viral Early Warning Efforts With Financial Support From The Rockefeller Foundation

Investing in Essential Infrastructure to Fill Important Gaps in Variant Tracking

The Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute (PPI) announced that it will provide funding to Helix, a leader in nationwide viral surveillance for SARS-CoV-2, to rapidly advance infrastructure, data systems and technology needed to further scale and connect genomic surveillance to a broader network for improved outcomes. This collaboration helps address the national need for faster, more comprehensive and consistent viral sequencing in the service of public health.

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“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 Dr. Rick Bright, senior vice president of Pandemic Prevention and Response at The Rockefeller Foundation and CEO of the Pandemic Prevention Institute. “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.”

Viral surveillance through genetic epidemiology — a tool that leverages next-generation sequencing (NGS) to track the transmission and emergence patterns of viral variant types — has increasingly been deployed to track COVID-19. By using NGS for SARS-CoV-2 and future respiratory pathogens, public health leaders will be able to flag emerging outbreaks to inform public health guidance and tailor local policy to prevent regional outbreaks before they spread.

“We are excited to partner with the Pandemic Prevention Institute to develop sustainable data generation and exchange technologies for improved pathogen surveillance,” said Dr. James Lu, CEO and co-founder of Helix. “These capabilities are indispensable 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.”

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Since the winter of 2020, Helix, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been utilizing its next-generation sequencing capability to contribute to national surveillance efforts. Through its public viral surveillance dashboard and routine data sharing, Helix regularly provides reporting to state public health, health systems and other health care institutions. Helix has published over a dozen pre-print and peer-reviewed publications on viral sequences, several of which were among the first to accurately predict a variant’s spread across the United States.

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This collaboration will support the development of increased viral surveillance capabilities for respiratory illnesses, initially at five health systems, including several dedicated to supporting underserved communities across the United States. This is an important step in bringing laboratories and data capabilities together to advance the global goal of ending the current pandemic and preventing future ones.

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[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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