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Illumina launches Global Health Access Initiative

To support acceleration of pathogen sequencing in low- and middle-income countries

Illumina, a global leader in DNA sequencing and array-based technologies, announced the launch of the Global Health Access Initiative to support access to pathogen sequencing tools for public health in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The programme, developed with guidance from customers, funders, and market facilitators including the non-profit FIND, will provide reduced pricing structures for eligible sequencing products from Illumina to qualified global health funding entities and address key international logistics and supply chain challenges.

“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.

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.

Expanding sequencing capabilities in LMICs is a long-term focus for Illumina, and it forms the foundation of collaborations with organisations like FIND and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Recently, significant advances have been made in global genomic sequencing capacity: As of December 2022, 84 per cent 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.

“Significant sequencing capacity was built up globally during the pandemic to identify, track and monitor variants, a capacity which should be leveraged to help combat multiple health challenges. Initiatives such as this are critical to help improve affordability and access to genomics in low- and middle-income countries, to ensure that every country can benefit from the technology in a scalable and sustainable manner for routine use,” said Anita Suresh, Head of Genomics & Sequencing at FIND.

“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, US 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 programme developed and operationalised by Illumina will allow many low- and middle-income nations to participate in the future of genomics across public health and preparedness.”

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