The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted that a rapidly spreading, far more contagious variant of the coronavirus is projected to become the dominant source of infection. Jennifer A. Surtees, PhD
, associate professor of biochemistry
, knew that the University at Buffalo could perform genome sequencing of the SARS-COV-2 virus locally, but she needed virus samples. At the time, the Erie County Department of Health was the only lab able to conduct testing for COVID-19. They agreed to give positive samples to Surtees. This kind of genomic sequencing, says Surtees, can be used alongside contact tracing to understand transmission of the virus through communities. With a $7,500 grant from the SUNY Research Foundation to pursue the sequencing work performed at UB’s Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, Surtees enlisted the expertise of Donald Yergeau, PhD, and Jonathan Bard. What they found, says Surtees, was that most virus samples within Erie County can be traced back to European variations.