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TGen: Arizona could become world leader in COVID-19 mutation tracking

Posted at 9:13 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 22:09:38-05

Arizona could soon become the world leader in tracking COVID-19 mutations.

TGen, the non-profit Translational Genomics Research Institute, is gearing up to launch an ambitious new initiative to test every single positive case of the virus in Arizona.

The ultimate goal is to identify and alert public health authorities and vaccine manufacturers about any mutations that may be able to escape current versions of the vaccine.

"It's the sequencing that give us the intelligence on the virus," says TGen co-director Dr. David Engelthaler. "We understand now how it's changing, what's moving, what's actually not spreading. All of these things are really important for us to understand."

TGen researchers have already analyzed nearly 6,000 samples but want to get to a point where they can process every positive case in the state.

Currently, the UK leads the world in the volume of virus sequencing it does, while only analyzing ten percent of its positive cases says Dr. Englethaler.

"I've been in public health in Arizona for 30 years and really for the first time we're seeing this very cutting-edge technology being brought to bear on outbreaks that are happening today, where we can really make a difference," says Engelthaler.