Fred Hutch researcher Dr. Trevor Bedford co-created Nextstrain.org in 2017 with Dr. Richard Neher, a biologist and physicist at the University of Basel. Through the website, they share phylogenetic charts — family trees for viruses — that help guide the public health response as an epidemic unfolds, whether it’s influenza, Ebola, or coronavirus. Thanks to scientists across the globe who are sequencing the coronavirus and openly sharing the results, the Nextstrain team is tracking COVID-19 in real time, monitoring subtle changes in the genetic code of the virus as it moves between people.
The more data Nextstrain incorporates, the more powerful the platform. To date, scientists have sequenced fewer than 1,000 samples of the virus. The Nextstrain team aims to dramatically increase this number by supporting sequencing capacity in labs around the world.
Labs with the equipment and expertise to perform whole genome sequencing have reached out to the Nextstrain team saying they want to contribute to this urgent effort — but they need funds for supplies.
Dr. Emma Hodcroft, co-developer for Nextstrain.org, shares that "We have labs ready to start doing incredibly informative real-time sequencing, but they must wait for weeks for funds while we miss valuable information.”
Fred Hutch and Nextstrain.org aim to raise $300,000 to bridge the gaps and expand the community of researchers sequencing COVID-19. The information gained from sequencing another 1,000 samples of the virus won’t just strengthen Nextstrain, it will empower researchers everywhere to find creative ways to prevent the virus from spreading right now. And it will help scientists develop novel treatments over time. Supporting this project is an immediate action you can take to help us address this global health crisis.