LSU Health New Orleans has been awarded $2.38 million in funding to lead partnerships to sequence SARS-CoV-2 variants. The funding is from a contract with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH)) and a National Institute of General Medical Sciences supplement to the LACaTS (Louisiana Clinical & Translational Science Center) grant.
Lucio Miele, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair of Genetics, and Assistant Dean for Translational Science at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, will sequence samples from breakthrough cases, re-infections, cases among unvaccinated individuals and vulnerable patients - cancer and transplant patients, as well as those treated with immunosuppressants for autoimmune diseases.
Under the LDH contract, Ochsner and LDH will do the sampling, and LSU Health New Orleans will do the sequencing. This project is a public-private partnership in collaboration with a small Louisiana-based bioinformatics company (BIE) for analytics and data interpretation.
The National Institutes of Health funding will focus on cases occurring in underserved and minority patients. Partners also include Ochsner and BIE, as well as Xavier University. Xavier will perform community engagement and health literacy work. Specifically, they will develop culturally sensitive educational material with the assistance of the LACaTS Community Engagement Core to explain the importance of continued surveillance and the significance of variants.
Over the past year, Dr. Miele has sequenced samples from patients infected with the COVID-19 virus. "As many as 28 different variants were circulating simultaneously over the last few months. We did find the California variants, and the most prevalent is B.1.1.7, the UK variant." As the new projects get underway, he fully expects to find more of the variants that have been reported in other parts of Louisiana and the country.