To help combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN), today announced they have entered into a public-private partnership to aid those on the ground who are fighting the spread of the virus. The partnership will train local and outbreak-deployed personnel to sequence viral genomes from the outbreak, and will extend surveillance operations. Genome sequencing of the virus is critical for genomic surveillance—tracking how the virus is moving and changing in real-time. This information may influence the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies. The partnership will equip facilities in West Africa with state-of-the-art genome sequencing technology that will aid in Ebola response now and in clinical monitoring and pathogen surveillance in the future. Sequencing and patient monitoring facilities will be created first in Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, and over the longer term in other West African countries. These centers will serve as hubs for the deployment of mobile laboratories to remote districts where large-scale capacity is not available. "The United States is embracing a new model of development—one grounded in a focus on innovation, local leadership, and public-private partnerships to accelerate progress in the most challenging places," said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. "By partnering with experts from the Broad Institute and Illumina, we can give health workers the tools they need to win the fight against Ebola." A team of researchers led by Pardis Sabeti from the Broad Institute has been working with collaborators in Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone for many years, training them to use state-of-the-art sequencing and diagnostic technology. Leveraging this experience, the team will also move to enable similar work in Liberia, the country hit hardest by the outbreak. "We are thrilled to be working with USAID and Illumina," said Sabeti, an Associate Professor at Harvard University and a Senior Associate Member of the Broad Institute. "The generosity of our partners will enable our outstanding African collaborators to provide real time information about the circulation and mutation of Ebola virus strains, which is critical for keeping diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies up-to-date. And, importantly, this partnership will build long-term strength in Africa for genomic surveillance."
"This is an urgent situation that needs our immediate attention," said Rick Klausner, Chief Medical Officer of Illumina. "Illumina's MiSeq sequencing platform, with turnaround times of 4-24 hours, will provide high-throughput capacity for the analysis of heavy sample loads."The labs of Professor Christian Happi of Redeemer's University in Nigeria and Professor Daouda Ndiaye of Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Senegal will be the first to receive the MiSeq®desktop sequencers, ideal for targeted and small genome sequencing, with labs in Liberia and Sierra Leone subsequently receiving machines. Through support from the NIH and the World Bank, 11 researchers from Nigeria and Senegal completed an advanced training program in genomics at the Broad Institute this past summer, including in-depth work using Illumina technology. The lab of Professor Happi, which played a key role in Ebola diagnosis, is set to sequence the 20 confirmed and suspected cases from the Nigerian outbreak that was declared over on October 20, 2014. "We are excited to soon get the MiSeq on the ground and to produce this genomic information critical in the global response," said Happi. About USAID The U.S. Agency for International Development is leading the U.S. Government's efforts to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies around the world. In West Africa, USAID is leading an aggressive, coordinated U.S. Government emergency response to stop and contain the spread of Ebola. USAID's current efforts are focused on supporting the construction and management of Ebola treatment units; increasing the number of safe burial teams; airlifting critical relief and medical supplies; training health care workers; supporting public messaging with communities on how to prevent, detect and treat Ebola; and strengthening emergency response systems of the affected governments. For more information about USAID and its programs, please visit www.usaid.gov. About the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard was launched in 2004 to empower this generation of creative scientists to transform medicine. The Broad Institute seeks to describe all the molecular components of life and their connections; discover the molecular basis of major human diseases; develop effective new approaches to diagnostics and therapeutics; and disseminate discoveries, tools, methods, and data openly to the entire scientific community. Founded by MIT, Harvard and its affiliated hospitals, and the visionary Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe L. Broad, the Broad Institute includes faculty, professional staff, and students from throughout the MIT and Harvard biomedical research communities and beyond, with collaborations spanning over a hundred private and public institutions in more than 40 countries worldwide. For further information about the Broad Institute, go to http://www.broadinstitute.org. About Illumina Illumina is transforming human health as the global leader in sequencing and array-based technologies. The company serves customers in a broad range of markets, enabling the adoption of genomic solutions in research and clinical settings. To learn how Illumina is unlocking the power of the genome, visit www.illumina.com and follow @illumina.