Quest Diagnostics, a leading provider of diagnostic information services, on January 18 announced that it has entered into an agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide genomic sequencing to identify new mutations in, and patterns of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Financial terms of the agreement are not disclosed.
The goal of the collaboration is to aid the CDC in conducting a large-scale longitudinal genomic survey of the SARS-CoV-2 virus using a random set of samples collected from Quest's labs across the United States. The company will perform the sequencing from its advanced diagnostics laboratory in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Viruses can mutate over time. In recent weeks, highly transmissible variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus first discovered in the United Kingdom and South Africa have been identified in the United States.
Quest Diagnostics will sequence the viral genomes of random de-identified samples that test positive in the course of providing molecular diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 for providers and patients, and provide the CDC with completed whole viral sequences. These data will be combined with the results of other data provided to the CDC by national, state, academic, and commercial labs to help meet the CDC survey's aims.
"Public and private collaboration is essential to mobilizing an effective response to COVID-19," said Jay G. Wohlgemuth, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer. "Quest has the expertise in genomics and infectious diseases, as well as extensive COVID-19 testing data and access to patient samples. Our program will complement and extend the efforts of the CDC to discover and track new virus mutations and thereby improve public health response to the pandemic."
The CDC's survey aims to provide important baseline information for national and state-level surveillance, help define changes in transmission, identify new variants of the virus, and improve the public health response to the virus.
Quest Diagnostics and the CDC have a long history of collaboration to improve public health initiatives. Most recently, Quest joined the CDC's seroprevalence survey, which analyzes results of de-identified COVID-19 antibody tests to identify rates of COVID-19 prevalence in the United States. In addition, Quest is a member of the SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology and Surveillance (SPHERES) consortium, which launched in May 2020. Quest and the CDC are also long-time collaborators to identify trends in screening, diagnosis and treatment in viral hepatitis, HIV and sexually transmitted infections in the United States, based on insights revealed by analysis of Quest's national testing database.