- HHS' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) announced last week that it is supporting efforts to advance a next-generation genetic sequencing platform through ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
- The goal of next-generation sequencing is to allow clinicians and researchers to decode DNA and RNA faster than in the past--in this case, fast enough to respond to urgent public health threats.
- The project specifically aims to help reduce the spread of pandemic influenza and antibiotic-resistant infections by enabling more rapid diagnoses, which would allow clinicians to provide patients with the right treatment, do so more quickly, and reduce the amount of time patients might spread their pathogens.
Such an advancement could indeed be a game changer in the two health threats of a flu pandemic, which is estimated to have the potential to kill up to 207,000 people and cost up to $166.5 billion, and the antibiotic resistant infections that could hit more than about two million people per year and cause more than 23,000 deaths, according to HHS.
Beyond those goals, advancements in next-generation sequencing are sought for the sake of advancement of healthcare as a whole, and to form the basis for precision medicine.
The cost for sequencing a human genome has already come down from the astronomically price of $100 million in 2001 to the attainable price of under $1,000 in 2016.
Further, the next-generation sequencing market is expected to explode, with Grand View Research forecasting it to be worth $14 billion by 2024, driven by efforts toward prognosis and treatment of chronic diseases including cancer and pathogenic infections.
Under HHS, a new one-year contract worth $8.5 million will combine the efforts of BARDA and DNA Electronics (DNAe) to further develop its Genalysis sequencing platform, which could be used by healthcare providers to sequence the genes of pathogens from patient samples, compare the data to a reference database, and identify the pathogens, as well as their resistance to certain drugs, within two to four hours.