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Addressing a Pandemic in Real Time

We're using genetic sequencing data and complex statistical methods to understand and share how COVID-19 is spreading and evolving. Our work is helping countries, organizations, and people develop successful strategies to monitor and control outbreaks to save lives.

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COVID-19 Research at Fred Hutch

Our scientists started tracking and forecasting the spread of the disease weeks before Seattle became the first U.S. city to face an outbreak. Now, we are working with neighbors and collaborators like Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the University of Washington, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and with partners around the world — to expand knowledge about the virus and find ways to prevent and treat COVID-19. Not just for our own community and country, but for people everywhere on the planet.

Fueling the Leading Edge of COVID-19 Research

Since the novel coronavirus emerged last December, a team of researchers here and in Switzerland have been tracking it to understand its genetic evolution and reduce infections around the world.

Dr. Trevor Bedford
Dr. Trevor Bedford, Computational Biologist

Fred Hutch researcher Dr. Trevor Bedford co-created 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, 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 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.

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Why Does Fred Hutch Study Viruses?

We've been studying infectious diseases and the immune system for nearly as long as we’ve been studying cancer — because cancer and our bodies’ defenses against infections are so closely linked. Our pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation revealed the urgent need to protect transplant patients from deadly infections, which launched our quest to gain an in-depth understanding of the immune system..

Today, we’re known for our expertise in virology and infectious disease. We are working in the laboratory, the clinic, and the cloud to find better ways to detect, prevent, and treat viruses and other infections to protect patients and communities. Working across disciplines, we are studying how HIV and other viruses evolve, learning how pathogens cause cancers, and developing and advancing treatments that harness patients’ own immune systems to fight disease. We track epidemics to guide public health officials’ strategies to contain outbreaks of diseases like Zika, Ebola, and now COVID-19. And we’re on the leading edge of developing vaccines to prevent HIV, with active research projects in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and more than 40 other countries.

Your gift to support our coronavirus response will have immediate and long-term impact. Please give today.

HVTN employee working in the lab

Infectious Disease Research at the Hutch

Our infectious disease researchers study the epidemiology of infectious diseases, investigate emerging infectious diseases, develop novel diagnostics, and conduct clinical trials on potential new treatments.

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Dr. Elizabeth Halloran

COVID-19 Research

Grounded in experience with global health threats ranging from AIDS to Zika, we are part of an international scientific response to the pandemic. We are tracking the virus' spread, developing diagnostic tests, designing vaccine trials, and informing efforts to stop the disease's spread.

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Last Modified, March 30, 2020