Health

CDC taps Mass. DPH to establish regional center to better prevent infectious disease outbreaks

The Broad Institute and Harvard are among the partners the state will work with at the New England Pathogen Genomics Center of Excellence.

Health care workers treat a patient on the COVID-19 ICU floor of the University of Massachusetts Memorial Hospital in Worcester in 2021. Allison Dinner/Bloomberg

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has been tapped by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish a new regional center with the goal of better preventing and responding to infectious disease outbreaks. 

Massachusetts is one of five national recipients being tasked with establishing a Pathogen Genomics Center for Excellence, according to the state. The four other regional centers 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.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

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The Department of Public Health will receive $25 million over five years to establish the regional center with a state public health laboratory genomics capability and epidemiologic application of genomics to public health.

Partners for the state’s effort include the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, as well as Boston University, Yale, Fathom Information Design, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Theiagen Genomics. 

“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,” Kevin Cranston, DPH assistant commissioner and director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, said in a statement. “We believe this Center of Excellence will spur new innovation and inform how we address future public health threats.”

According to the state, in addition to preparing for and responding to infectious disease threats, the five national centers will assess the United States public health system for gaps, needs, and opportunities related to genomics, pilot and implement applications for genomic technologies for public health, and provide education and training for public health departments on the use of genomics. 

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