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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Faster and cheaper genetic sequencing can give us the ability to test for almost any infectious pathogen — provided we use it.

Why it matters: Doctors never identify the causative agents of many infections, leading them to misdiagnose patients and even miss the early emergence of new diseases, but wider use of genetic sequencing promises a future in which no virus will be left behind.

Driving the news: On Friday, the White House announced the federal government would invest $1.7 billion from the American Rescue Plan to "improve the detection, monitoring and mitigation" of COVID-19 variants, including funding to shore up the country's lagging genomic sequencing efforts.

Context: More widespread genetic sequencing could be the key not just to tracking coronavirus variants, but identifying mysterious pathogens of all kinds: viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites and more.

  • One example: The Virginia-based startup Aperiomics has developed a massive database of the genetic sequences of tens of thousands of known pathogens.
  • When doctors are presented with an infection of unknown cause, they can use shotgun metagenomic sequencing — decoding the genes of all organisms in a biological sample — and compare the findings against Aperiomics' list.
  • If unknown genetic sequences show up, it's a decent clue that doctors could be dealing with something new.

What they're saying: "There is a huge difference between what we know exists and what the existing testing is capable of identifying," Aperiomics CEO Crystal Icenhour says.

What to watch: How quickly improvements in genetic sequencing bring down the costs of such tests, and whether insurance companies will cover them.

Go deeper: Axios' Coronavirus Variant Tracker.

Go deeper

Apr 16, 2021 - Health

CDC: U.S. has administered over 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. has administered more than 202 million coronavirus vaccine doses since the start of its inoculation campaign, with nearly 4 million vaccinations reported on Friday alone, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The numbers indicate Biden is on track to fulfill his promise of 200 million vaccinations within his first 100 days in office. The president set a new goal late last month after it became clear the U.S. was outpacing his initial goal of 100 million doses.

Updated Dec 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.