Last week the CDC granted funds to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to improve the state’s genome testing for infectious diseases. The 18.5 million dollars will be spread among four top institutions, including Michigan Tech. Dr. Caryn Heldt, the Director for MTU’s Health Research Institute, says the money coming to Tech will total 4.3 million dollars.
“And so, with this expertise and the funds to be able to have the infrastructure we need to do it, we will increase transparency of different genomes that are sequenced here in the Upper Peninsula. We’re gonna start with COVID-19, as the first thing we’ll sequence. But really the idea is this sets up the infrastructure to be able to sequence other things including drug resistant gonorrhea. And we also have an expertise in zoonotic diseases. So we are also going to be looking for the avian flu, or other types of diseases that nobody really knows right now, do they exist in the Upper Peninsula, because they haven’t ever been looked for or sequenced.” – Dr. Caryn Heldt, Director of the Health Research Institute
The top priority for all the schools receiving funds, is to test genome sequences for the corona virus that has interrupted daily life for all Americans. With Michigan tech showing out as a leader in medical research, the money will help shorten the time it takes for the Upper Peninsula to receive updated public health information about the region.
“We do not send a lot of sequences to the state lab to be sequenced. And the state lab only has a limited capacity to only sequence across the state. After Michigan Tech really showed the state that we have the capability to run a COVID testing lab. I think it really helps to elevate the U.P. as having the technological capabilities and expertise to be able to do this type of work. And while we need more equipment to be able to do larger sequences and a larger number of sequences. We have the expertise on campus to be able to do it.” – Dr. Caryn Heldt
The hardest part of the pandemic for the Upper Peninsula has been a lack of testing capability, and having to wait for information sent to Lansing to make its way back to the area. With the addition of up to date data and testing capacities, information on the state of public health in the region can flow much more efficiently. MTU anticipates that the equipment and technicians needed for increased genome testing will arrive by end of summer.