The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, in partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has announced the soft-launch of IDseq, an open-source cloud-based analysis platform with the potential to rapidly detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks around the world.
The IDseq platform, which began as a research project in the University of California San Francisco lab of Biohub co-president Dr. Joseph DeRisi, works by rapidly combing through terabytes of metagenomic data for traces of pathogens, whether bacteria, a virus, fungus, or even a parasite. By identifying disease-causing pathogens, IDseq can then provide a report of what is happening on the ground to labs and clinics anywhere in the world. In a recent pilot project, the Child Health Research Foundation in Dhaka, Bangladesh, used the platform to identify the presence of mosquito-borne chikungunya disease in the spinal fluid of patients at Dhaka Shishu Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in the country. Based on the information, follow-up testing identified additional cases of neuroinvasive chikungunya from the same time period that had been categorized as "mystery cases."
To provide broader access to the platform and on-the-ground feedback, the Gates Foundation has announced a new funding opportunity for global health workers through its Grand Challenges Explorations Initiative. Awardees will receive molecular biology and bioinformatics training from Biohub, free access to the IDseq platform, and equipment and supplies needed to begin work in their own countries.
"Pathogens don't respect geographic borders," said DeRisi, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF. "An emerging infectious disease in one community can affect surrounding areas and countries. The global health community needs the ability to share data quickly to track outbreaks or emerging diseases. With IDseq, we hope to empower data-driven decisions about how to better manage antibiotics, where to prioritize immunization campaigns, [and] how to shape vector control and surveillance efforts."
"The ultimate vision for IDseq is for it to be a dashboard of real-time pathogen detection around the world," said Priscilla Chan, who with her husband, Mark Zuckerberg, pledged $600 million in funding to launch the Biohub two years ago. "Nothing like this exists — but it could be a major step forward in our ability to cure, prevent, or manage all disease. These are exactly the types of advances we envisioned when we started the Biohub."
(Photo credit: Chan Zuckerberg Biohub)