The state of Massachusetts has always been a leader in research and innovation.
In the 2020s, and despite fierce competition from other states and regions, it still is.
The Bay State is one of only five selected as regional hubs of genomics research, as state and academic leaders become pro-active in preparing for, and hopefully circumventing or defeating, the type of infectious outbreaks that crippled the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Massachusetts will be joined by Georgia, Minnesota, Virginia and Washington in a broad, collaborative effort. Some of the best research minds in the nation, drawn from health departments, universities and other sources, will prepare for disease threats and train health agencies on how to utilize related modern technology.
The universities in Massachusetts provide fertile intellectual ground for such work. It will be strengthened by the five-year, $25 million grant from the Centers of Disease Control & Prevention.
The state Department of Public Health will coordinate the New England Pathogen Genomics Center of Excellence.
The new collaborative comes after Massachusetts relied on its laboratories, higher education institutions, and experts in medical, public health and scientific knowledge. Information gained from past experience with COVID-19, Zika, mumps, hepatitis A, and other infectious diseases will be applied to potential future threats.
The implications of this research are vast. The culture and economy of the United States, and for that matter the globe, cannot afford another calamitous pandemic such as the scourge just experienced.
The research center will analyze gaps, needs, and opportunities for genomics (the study of an organism’s genetic material) in the U.S. public health system. Massachusetts was the logical location for the regional hub, and Massachusetts General Hospital will be among the partners.
The role of Massachusetts as a national innovation and research leader has been challenged as other regions have recruited talent, and invested both public and private money to establish their own credentials. Against this competition, the Bay State is still regarded as a go-to source for technology and intellectual power.
Preparing for the future has been what Massachusetts has always done best. This grant will help perpetuate that admirable tradition.