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Ginkgo Bioworks and XpresCheck Expand CDC’s Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance Program to Detect Influenza Variants

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Ginkgo Bioworks (NYSE: DNA) and XWELL, Inc. (Nasdaq: XWEL) today announced that they have expanded their support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance program to include a pilot study monitoring influenza viruses in addition to SARS-CoV-2. The partners continue to grow the program’s capabilities to provide an additional source of viral surveillance to inform the selection of influenza vaccine viruses for the forthcoming 2023-2024 flu season.

Since August 2021, the program, which is also being used to conduct surveillance for SARS-CoV-2, has delivered timely public health insights into rare and emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants and sublineages and informed responses to outbreaks and surges through an innovative public-private partnership between CDC, Concentric by Ginkgo, the biosecurity and public health unit of Ginkgo Bioworks, and XpresCheck by XWELL, Inc., a leading provider of SARS-CoV-2 testing in U.S. airports. Recognizing the high level of seasonal influenza activity this fall and winter, the program is leveraging its large-scale travel biosecurity platform to monitor influenza A and B viruses among arriving international travelers at selected U.S. airports.

“As biological threats continue to emerge, evolve, and disrupt our lives as they spread across our interconnected world, the large-scale solutions we built to respond to COVID-19 are now forming the basis for the long-term biosecurity infrastructure we need,” said Matt McKnight, General Manager, Biosecurity at Ginkgo. “Traveler-based detection represents a critical early warning system that can act like a radar for a variety of potential public health threats, beginning with COVID-19 and flu. Working in close partnership with CDC and XpresCheck enables us to pursue sustainable innovation, sidestepping global cycles of crisis and complacency in public health to strengthen this badly needed radar system for the years to come.”

International travelers arriving at participating airports from more than 30 countries can enroll in the program on a voluntary basis to be sampled for pathogen surveillance purposes. These samples are then tested for influenza A and B in addition to SARS-CoV-2. Samples that test positive for influenza are then shared with CDC for viral genomic sequencing, as well as culturing for further in vitro characterization. The resulting insights may be used to help select vaccine viruses and inform candidate vaccine development in preparation for the next flu season. Traveler-based pathogen monitoring represents a novel approach to influenza surveillance, complementing CDC’s ongoing efforts by providing early insights into global trends in influenza virus evolution.

“We’re building upon the foundation we established to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic to address another important public health challenge: seasonal influenza,” stated Ezra Ernst, Chief Executive Officer of XpresCheck. “As we work with CDC and Concentric to expand the program’s footprint and capabilities, we are providing public health officials with timely insights into pathogen evolution and setting a global standard for travel biosecurity. Thank you to those who participate.”

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Medical Device News Magazine provides breaking medical device / biotechnology news. Our subscribers include medical specialists, device industry executives, investors, and other allied health professionals, as well as patients who are interested in researching various medical devices. We hope you find value in our easy-to-read publication and its overall objectives! Medical Device News Magazine is a division of PTM Healthcare Marketing, Inc. Pauline T. Mayer is the managing editor.

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