How CZI is Responding to COVID-19

Editor’s Note: This release post has been updated as of 12/7/21 with the new name of CZ ID (formerly IDseq).

The coronavirus pandemic is unfolding and evolving rapidly all over the world — impacting communities, individuals, and families in too many ways to count. As part of CZI’s mission to support the science and technology that will make it possible to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of this century, the CZI Science team is helping fight this virus on many fronts. In collaboration with our partners and grantees, we’re working together every step of the way to increase access to testing, genomic sequencing, research, community support, and more.

Below are a few ways we’re joining the global fight against COVID-19.

COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator

CZI committed $25 million to the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator — a global effort to help speed the development of treatments for COVID-19. In partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard, CZI’s investment will support efforts to identify and assess potentially promising therapies for COVID-19, expedite their development, and scale up their production to benefit millions of patients worldwide.

A scientist examines a vial. Photograph by Andrew Brookes.
A scientist examines a vial. Photograph by Andrew Brookes.

The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is aimed at accelerating and evaluating new and repurposed drugs to treat patients with COVID-19. The Accelerator brings together resources and expertise to lower the financial and technical risk for academia, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments while ensuring equal access to these therapies once they are developed — including making them available and affordable in underserved communities. The Accelerator will work with the World Health Organization, government, and private sector funders and organizations, as well as global regulatory and policy-setting institutions.

Increasing Clinical Testing Capacity

CZI recently joined forces with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub (CZ Biohub), the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the State of California to help frontline healthcare facilities and local authorities better fight the COVID-19 pandemic by using their capabilities to increase the volume of local clinical testing.

Enabled by an executive order from California Governor Gavin Newsom, the partnership is supporting testing capacity at UCSF, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, and regional Department of Public Health partners. This new testing capability, which is is capable of running more than 1,000 tests per day, is first being directed first to UCSF’s sickest patients — in-patients — followed by symptomatic out-patients that have largely yet to be tested. As additional capacity comes online, this capability will be used to further assist health departments and community testing.

A scientist uses a multichannel pipette and multiwell Eppendorf plate. | Photograph by Kuntalee Rangnoi.
A scientist uses a multichannel pipette and multiwell Eppendorf plate. Photograph by Kuntalee Rangnoi.

Partnering on an Open Research Dataset

As part of a White House Office of Science and Technology Policy project, CZI engineers worked with partners in academia, medicine, and technology to aggregate and launch a machine-readable dataset on coronavirus research. The COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19) will allow scientists to more quickly find information about COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and the coronavirus group, as well as discover and share new insights. The open dataset contains more than 29,000 coronavirus-related scientific articles — over 13,000 of which are full-text. It will continue to be updated as new insights are published in peer-reviewed publications and archival services, such as the preprint servers bioRxiv (a CZI grantee), medRxiv, and others.

Empowering Researchers Across the Globe

Using Chan Zuckerberg ID (CZ ID), an open-source tool created by CZI engineers and the CZ Biohub, researchers in Cambodia confirmed the country’s first COVID-19 case in days, not the weeks it normally would take. Through a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the team was able to proactively assess what was happening locally by prepping and sequencing the full genome of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in-house instead of sending those samples to a lab in another country for processing.

In order to make this information accessible to as many scientists as possible, teams uploaded a manuscript summarizing their findings and the impact of in-country sequencing to bioRxiv. They also launched a public version of CZI ID so scientists could study these data. Finally, they uploaded the genome sequence to open source pathogen data repositories, GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data), and Nextstrain, so scientists anywhere can see the full genome sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and study it within the broader context of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus sequences uploaded globally.

Supporting Our Bay Area Community

Our team is working with local agencies and organizations that are connecting individuals and families in need to relief services, including emergency rental assistance, food relief, and more. We’re partnering with Contra Costa Health Services to launch mobile health and testing clinics to provide screening and testing for high-risk community members in San Mateo County.

The road ahead is long. But we are grateful to see so many people and organizations coming together to fight this virus and support one another. And we are grateful to the doctors, nurses, scientists, and all frontline workers who are working to keep us all safe.

Interested in joining CZI and contributing to efforts like these and more? Visit our jobs page to learn more.

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Supporting the science and technology that will make it possible to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the century.

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