NIH funding helps track COVID-19 variants in Arkansas


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A National Institutes of Health-funded collaboration between scientists at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences will help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas Department of Health understand more about the variants of COVID-19 in the state.

According to a news release from Arkansas Children’s, the $770,000 grant will go to the collaboration between UAMS, Arkansas Children’s, Baptist Health, and ADH.

The “Arkansas Sequencing Consortium” will be a source for sample from across the state to be used for sequencing COVID-19 variants, according to the release.

The release says ACRI will provide an additional $200,000 in part from Arkansas Biosciences Institute funds, to expand sequencing capacity.

ACRI’s HIH-funded Center for Translational Pediatric Research and UAMS’ IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence will lead the efforts, according to the release.

The release says the grant is awarded to Dr. Alan Tackett, CTPR director, professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Kennedy said the work will help the state understand which variants of COVID-19 are present in Arkansas and could even help identify new variants.

“The big picture information that emerges from this type of detail can equip the healthcare community to respond more quickly, ultimately saving more lives and preventing some serious complications,” Kennedy said. “Combining the expertise and resources of several Arkansas health leaders will mean we help more people faster.”

The release says sequencing platforms will allow the researchers to sequence COVID-19 positive sample from the ArkSeq Consortium over the next year.

According to the release, Arkansas has sequenced fewer than 1,000 COVID-19 samples, a total of only 0.28% of all cases. The numbers put the state 48th nationally for total samples sequenced.

The release says the scientists expect to yield eight times more sequences from Arkansas for national databases, also producing additional samples for future study.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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