A new Global Health Access Initiative, launched by Illumina, is designed to support access to pathogen sequencing tools for public health in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The program will provide reduced pricing structures for eligible sequencing products from Illumina to qualified global health funding entities and address international logistics and supply chain challenges.
Recently, significant advances have been made in global genomic sequencing capacity: As of December 2022, 84% of World Health Organization (WHO) member states are capable of sequencing SARS-COV-2, and as of October 2023, over 16 million SARS-CoV-2 genomes have been deposited in the GISAID repository. However, geographic disparities in the ability to monitor pathogens beyond SARS-CoV-2 lead to significant gaps in the detection of emerging threats, putting global health security at risk.
“We know that enabling countries to perform pathogen sequencing locally strengthens health systems, enables better preparedness, and empowers countries to manage their priority health threats,” said Vanessa Moeder, head of global health at Illumina. “It also avoids costly and time-consuming shipment of samples abroad and leads to faster response times. We cannot lose time preparing for the next pandemic, and adoption of pathogen genomic surveillance in every country allows us to get ahead of infectious threats.”
Currently, pricing for sequencing instruments and consumables can vary by country or region, which is challenging for funders and donors and can limit broad implementation. In the Illumina global team’s experience, Moeder says, the countries or regions whose public health preparedness would most benefit from genomics often lack the resources to sustainably implement it.
To begin addressing these challenges, Illumina’s Global Health Access Initiative will provide discounted prices for a range of sequencing applications, including drug resistance profiling in tuberculosis, whole-genome sequencing of emerging and reemerging viruses to monitor virus evolution and support outbreak response, broad respiratory pathogen detection for influenza-like illness surveillance, wastewater, and other environmental surveillance applications to track pathogens, and antimicrobial resistances at the population level.
To simplify budgeting and procurement, Illumina’s key components for these applications are available as single-part-number combination kits, encompassing library preparation reagents, sequencing reagents, and data analysis tools.
“In an age where technology plays a crucial role in surveillance and diagnostics during pandemics, ensuring equitable access to these tools is not just a matter of fairness but a matter of global public health security,” said Toni Whistler, PhD, U.S. Centers for Disease Control detailee to the Global Fund. “The ability to monitor and diagnose diseases swiftly and accurately, without leaving vulnerable populations behind, is fundamental to our collective preparedness in the face of global health crises. The equitable access program developed and operationalized by Illumina will allow many low- and middle-income nations to participate in the future of genomics across public health and preparedness.”