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Zuckerberg and Gates Charities Helped Sequence the Coronavirus Genome

By Cory Renauer - Mar 4, 2020 at 4:00PM

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Philanthropic organizations headed by the two tech titans joined forces to help those trying to tackle the COVID-19 epidemic.

On Wednesday, Facebook (FB -7.62%) CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined measures taken by his philanthropic organization to fight the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. Recently, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), worked in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help a Cambodian research team sequence the novel coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.

Hooray for the 110th 

In 2020, sequencing a viral genome isn't quite as impressive as it sounds. The National Institute of Health manages a publicly available list of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences that currently contains 109 entries from around the globe.

DNA model

Image source: Getty Images.

At the moment, anyone can download SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequences submitted from The Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. The genome sequenced by the Cambodian team hasn't been added to the database yet.

Cloud capable

Inserting a sample into a genetic sequencing machine isn't exactly remarkable, but that doesn't mean the Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative aren't significantly contributing to the COVID-19 fight.

In 2018, CZI launched IDseq, an open-source, cloud-based platform that will allow researchers everywhere to access the sequence isolated by the team in Cambodia and compare it to those collected around the world.

There are reams of publicly available data related to SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens, but not every institution has a team of bioinformatics specialists. Institutions worldwide need all that information squeezed into a product that helps them make the best possible public health decisions about COVID-19 and future outbreaks. 

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