COVID Sequencing ‘Blind Spots’ Around US Challenge Control Of Pandemic

COVID Sequencing 'Blind Spots' Around US Challenge Control Of Pandemic COVID Sequencing 'Blind Spots' Around US Challenge Control Of Pandemic A researcher points at a computer screen displaying partial results of the genome sequencing of the COVID-19 virus (Christoph Archambault/AFP via Getty Images)

By Fran Beyer | Sunday, 05 December 2021 12:24 PM

A top executive at a biotechnology company that sequences virus variants said Sunday the United States is in a better position tracking COVID-19 variants, but still has “blind spots” around the country.

In an interview on CBS News’ “Face The Nation,” Francis deSouza, CEO of the biotechnology company Illumina, said the U.K. has been “one of the leaders in terms of rolling out a global immunology structure” for COVID.

“We’re in a lot different position than we were at the beginning of the pandemic,” he said. “Certainly a year ago we were sequencing very little, in terms of the positives we were seeing in this country. But over the last year, we started to see sequencing infrastructure being rolled out. “

According to deSouza, “we probably sequenced in the course of 2020 about 3% of the positives we have seen this year.”

“The best practice is to do between 5% and 10%. But in the last three months, we're in the 5% to 10%” range, he said.

“The challenge is it is very variable across the states," he said. "You have some states that are close to [sequencing] 30% of positives, and you have some states that are closer to 1%,” he said. “So over all, I think we have the capacity that we need, but we clearly have blind spots in parts of the country where we need do do more.”

He also the nation has to understand and manage the challenges a national pandemic poses.

"One, understanding what are we trying to shoot for in terms of a percentage of positives that we want to sequence. Two, how is that going to happen,” he said. “How are the samples going to go from clinics, where testing is happening, to labs that can do the sequencing.”

“And then there has got to be more work around how is the data going to be shared. All of that are ideas and they're being put together, but there is still work being done to get it together,” he said.