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NYMC Selected to Assist New York State in the Identification of COVID-19 Variants

NYMC Will Help Support New York’s Genome/Variant Surveillance Efforts and Generate Data to Help Bolster Discoveries to Inform Public Health Intervention

August 02, 2021
NYMC Genomics Core Laboratory With individual  wearing lab coat and mask headshot, COVID-19, Coronavirus

After a competitive request for proposal process, “Building NYS Whole Genome Sequencing Capacity for SARS-COV-2 Partnership,” the following laboratories were selected for their sequencing expertise and experience: NYMC Genomics Core Laboratory, as well as SUNY Upstate Medical University, SUNY Molecular Analysis Core; Cornell University, Virology Laboratory (Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center); University at Buffalo Genomics and Bioinformatics Core and University of Rochester Medical Center, UR Medicine Central Laboratory. The NYMC Genomics Core Laboratory in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, was established to house both basic and translational genomics research, provide state-of-the-art next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies, conduct genomics experiments and bioinformatics analyses, as well as provide opportunities for education and training in genomics and bioinformatics. The lab is directed by Weihua Huang, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology.

Data will be used to help build an understanding of disease manifestations, therapy or vaccine evasion and efficacy, and will support other discoveries to inform public health intervention. Sequencing results from the partner laboratories will be reported to the New York State Department of Health and the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data. NYMC expects to collaborate with the WMC Health Network to acquire samples from the Hudson Valley.

“I am elated at the selection of the Genomics Core Laboratory for this partnership, which not only affirms that New York Medical College and Touro College and University System are at the forefront of COVID-19 research but allows us to play an important role in keeping the public safe. Variant surveillance is essential and I would like to thank all of those who will continue to conduct this valuable research in the Genomics Core Laboratory,” said Salomon Amar, D.D.S., Ph.D., vice president for research, NYMC, and senior vice president for research affairs, Touro College and University System, who is the principal investigator on the project. “I know that Drs. Weihua Huang, Utsav Pandey and Humayun Islam, along with their team, will work diligently to help our community have a better understanding of this virus, its emerging variants and its impacts on affected individuals. It is through such partnerships that scientific research makes its greatest strides in advancements and I look forward to seeing what each of the five laboratories will bring forth.”

“It is quite an accomplishment for our Genomic Core Laboratory at NYMC to be selected for this partnership. It is a testament to the outstanding research work done under the directorship of Dr. Weihua Huang and I feel honored to be part of this team. Thanks to everyone involved in this invaluable work, including NYMC leadership and our clinical affiliate WMC Health Network, this study will allow us to better track, monitor and combat this unprecedented pandemic of COVID-19,” said Humayun Islam, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology.

“This represents a wonderful team effort by Drs. Humayun Islam and Weihua Huang. As dean of the School of Medicine, I am proud to support our faculty and students to conduct innovative research to address important health care needs in New York, the region and beyond. This project will facilitate NYMC to work with our health care partners for important outcome research and planning to address this pandemic,” said Jerry L. Nadler, M.D., MACP, FAHA, FACE, dean of the School of Medicine and professor of medicine and of pharmacology.

"New York is once again leading the way by using every tool at our disposal to beat this virus and expanding monitoring for these emerging variants that will help us remain ahead of the pandemic as more New Yorkers become fully vaccinated," Governor Cuomo said. 

The work is being coordinated through the Wadsworth Center (WC), New York State’s public health laboratory in the New York State Department of Health. The WC performs high complexity diagnostic molecular and serology testing for SARS-CoV-2 as well as whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and seeks other laboratories to perform testing and sequencing to help understand the prevalence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 strains as sequence variants expand. The project is expected to last 18 months and is funded as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases Enhancing Detection Expansion supplement.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of whole-genome sequencing in identifying variants of concern that are continuously monitored by the Wadsworth Center as an integral part of our public health response. We are pleased to announce this new partnership that will expand this surveillance ability statewide and assist in ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response efforts,” said New York State Department of Health Commissioner Howard A. Zucker, M.D., J.D.