Press Release – April 6, 2022
Ceres Nanosciences Establishes Sixteen Wastewater-Based Epidemiology Centers of Excellence Under NIH RADx Initiative
MANASSAS, Virginia – Ceres Nanosciences (Ceres), a privately held company that makes innovative products to improve life science research and diagnostic testing, is announcing the establishment of six new wastewater-based epidemiology centers of excellence. The new centers add to the nine existing centers of excellence previously announced in November 2021 and to the wastewater testing program in metro-Atlanta that is being run by Emory University, all supported by an $8.2 million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx®) initiative.
These sixteen sites encompass non-profit, university, public health, and commercial testing labs located in fourteen states, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin and are providing wastewater testing services to forty states.
Centers of Excellence: Click on images to learn more about each site
The centers are regularly monitoring wastewater from a wide range of sources, including from wastewater treatment plants to provide information on overall virus trends in a county or city; from sewersheds to support decision-making for public health resource allocation at a neighborhood level; and from building-level locations like college dorms, skilled nursing facilities, correctional facilities, K-12 schools, summer camps, and airports.
Each center was selected based on its ability to utilize the expanded capacity to extend services into underserved and underprivileged communities and is expected to share results with local and state public health authorities, as well as to submit data to the CDC National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS).
Each center of excellence received the materials and on-site training to implement an automated Nanotrap® particle protocol, which enables same-day delivery of wastewater testing results for over 100 samples per day. Extracted nucleic acids from this automated protocol are compatible with multiple nucleic acid detection methods, including reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), reverse transcription-droplet digital PCR (RT-ddPCR), and genomic sequencing.
“The wastewater testing capacity that this NIH-funded program has established nationwide is proving critical for monitoring the rise of new SARS-CoV-2 variants,” said Ben Lepene, Chief Technology Officer at Ceres Nanosciences. “I’m also very excited by the data we are seeing that demonstrate that the same method can be used to enable wastewater monitoring of a much wider range of infectious disease, including other viruses, bacteria, and parasites.”
Details with contact information for all centers of excellence are listed below.
Wastewater-based COVID-19 Surveillance
Centers of Excellence
Arizona State University in collaboration with OneWaterOneHealth
Selection as a center of excellence has enabled Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute and OneWaterOneHealth to scale up operations in Tribal communities from three to six reservation locations and to increase sampling frequency from monthly to weekly/biweekly. Regular meetings are conducted with Tribal epidemiologists, healthcare professionals, and community leaders to help inform the overall public health response in those communities. A high-frequency monitoring campaign for building-level hotspot surveillance of at-risk communities will be launched soon. A number of these projects have a downstream variant sequencing component, and efforts are underway with community stakeholders to integrate wastewater-derived data into existing epidemiology dashboards or to create standalone public-facing dashboards if desired and approved by the participating communities.
A global leader in wastewater epidemiology, Biobot Analytics has integrated Ceres’ Nanotrap® Magnetic Virus Particles into its wastewater sampling process, increasing the ease and efficiency of Biobot’s sampling practices. Selection as a center of excellence is helping Biobot double internal testing capacity, reduce cost, and scale its national Covid-19 wastewater network, which is providing free wastewater testing and analysis to underserved populations across the country including Native American tribes and territories such as the U.S. Virgin Islands. Biobot shares the data with participating wastewater treatment plants (at no cost) via a public dashboard—biobot.io/data—and is working on developing data export formats that are compatible with NWSS and DCIPHER. Biobot has expanded the Biobot Network to 120 sampling locations in 90 counties across 40 states representing 21.2M people, and is actively reporting genomic sequencing data on Covid-19 variants at the national, regional, and county-level via the public dashboard.
CIAN Diagnostics is a leading provider of testing services in Maryland and the mid-Atlantic. The company provides COVID-19 testing services for state, county, and local governments, and has completed over 1.5 million tests. CIAN conducts pooled testing for Maryland K-12 school systems and mobile testing for Maryland Department of Health. Selection as a center of excellence will enable CIAN to offer this new testing paradigm to its key clients in Maryland and beyond.
To learn more, contact:
Emory University has developed a unique strategy for multi-level wastewater-based surveillance for COVID-19 in vulnerable, low-income communities in Atlanta, GA. Emory developed a dynamic and nested sampling site selection plan, driven by modeling the sewerage network and estimated catchment areas. This includes collecting and analyzing wastewater samples from 9 influent lines into three major wastewater treatment facilities and from 56 community manhole sites representing neighborhood areas, 11 schools, and 2 correctional facilities within the catchment areas served by the wastewater treatment facilities. This method also involves using low-cost cotton gauze “Moore” swabs to collect composite wastewater samples from community-level and institution-level manholes. The data from this approach provide valuable information on both temporal and spatial trends in COVID-19 burden in the city and highlight areas where the burden may be under-recognized because of limited access to/use of diagnostic testing. Results are shared with the Georgia Department of Public Health and relevant municipal and county stakeholders to inform public health response. Wastewater results from the county jail have guided the use of additional diagnostic testing to better understand the COVID-19 burden in the facility.
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Kentucky Department of Public Health
The Kentucky Department of Public Health is the primary lab for testing, tracking, and reporting pathogenic outbreaks in the state of Kentucky. Joining the center of excellence program has enabled the lab to expand its testing services into wastewater surveillance, improve turnaround times by reducing the time it takes between receiving the wastewater sample and reporting of results, and significantly increasing the sensitivity and accuracy of its methods and assays. These improved testing capabilities are enabling expansion of wastewater testing in the state to multiple additional wastewater treatment facilities covering an additional 25 counties in the state with an emphasis placed on vulnerable communities using the COVID Community Vulnerability Index. The results will be submitted to the CDC National Wastewater Surveillance System via the DCIPHER portal.
Louisiana State University
(Baton Rouge, LA)
Selection as a center of excellence has enabled Louisiana State University to increase throughput for on-campus wastewater monitoring and for three large sewersheds in East Baton Rouge Parish. The comprehensive wastewater monitoring program on campus, a collaboration between the College of Engineering and the School of Veterinary Medicine, has been expanded to 26 locations covering all residential and Greek housing once per week with fully integrated door-to-door medical testing upon exceedance of trigger values. Selection as a Center of Excellence will allow LSU to increase the timeliness of its testing program and expand its surveillance to many smaller sewersheds in East Baton Rouge Parish to examine dynamics of SARS CoV-2 and other viral targets among underserved populations in the parish.
Public Health Laboratory of East Texas
As one of 120 Laboratory Response Network reference laboratories supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Public Health Laboratory of East Texas (PHLET) routinely tests clinical and environmental samples and reports results directly to the Texas Department of Health, the CDC, and other agencies. PHLET was the first in the region to provide SARS-CoV-2 testing for patients and has provided testing to approximately 60 health care facilities, public health departments, and first responders throughout East Texas. As a center of excellence, PHLET aims to provide testing of wastewater to identify areas of vulnerable and disparate populations in seven counties of east Texas through collaboration with the Northeast Texas Public Health District.
To learn more, contact:
Rachel Roberts French
University at Buffalo – State University of New York
The University at Buffalo – State University of New York currently runs wastewater-based surveillance for Erie County, the city of Buffalo, and the University at Buffalo North Campus. This includes underserved and vulnerable populations within the city of Buffalo as well as rural populations south of the city. As a center of excellence, the University at Buffalo has increased testing capacity and, in collaboration with the Erie County Department of Health, is expanding services to additional underserved communities in neighborhoods and ZIP codes most directly affected by COVID-19. Efforts are underway to expand service throughout Western NY into additional underserved urban and rural populations, including Tribal lands.
To learn more, contact:
University of California Davis in collaboration with University of California Merced
University of California (UC) Davis has been monitoring wastewater for the City of Davis and the UC Davis campus using Nanotrap® Magnetic Virus Particles with RT-qPCR and RT-ddPCR detection since 2020. Starting in the summer of 2021, UC Merced and UC Davis began collaborating on a new initiative, Healthy Central Valley Together, to expand wastewater testing for public health action in California's Central Valley. The project will use wastewater-based epidemiology to increase equity in access to public health data for regions with elevated poverty, food insecurity, and COVID-19 case rates. Selection as a center of excellence leverages external support for the project and will support the project by increasing UC Davis and Merced's wastewater testing capacity for an additional six to eight facilities in the Central Valley, as well as to expand wastewater monitoring on the UC Davis campus.
To learn more contact:
Heather N. Bischel
University of California Los Angeles
(Los Angeles, CA)
As a center of excellence, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has ramped up its campus-based wastewater testing program from eight to 30 locations and, for the first time ever, has been able to offer same-day results. UCLA is also collaborating with Pangolin Health to expand wastewater-based testing to K-12 schools in Los Angeles. Researchers at UCLA are using the high-throughput method available in the Center of Excellence to establish a baseline of SARS-CoV-2 trends in the wastewater system at a local K-8 school prior to vaccine approval for the 5-11 age group.
To learn more, contact:
University of Connecticut
One of the first universities in the country to begin testing its own wastewater, the University of Connecticut has been using a Nanotrap® Magnetic Virus Particle method to monitor samples from 16 sites on campus on a daily basis since 2020, as well as to provide wastewater testing for other towns, universities, military facilities, and even a sleepaway camp in New England. Inclusion in the centers of excellence Program is enabling the University of Connecticut to increase its sample throughput from 24 to 96 samples per day and expand capacity to serve additional communities in New England.
To learn more, contact:
University of Illinois Chicago
The University of Illinois Chicago's (UIC) selection as a center of excellence has enabled expansion of its Chicago-based program from ~15 wastewater treatment plant and sub-sewershed sites to a state-wide program testing able to service more than 100 plants and sites in 2022, each sampled twice weekly. In addition, UIC can now add ad-hoc sites around the city and state at the direction of and with the collaboration of the public health departments with which it works. Through a partnership with the University of Illinois System’s Discovery Partners Institute and the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Public Health, data is uploaded twice a week through the DCIPHER portal to the CDC National Wastewater Surveillance System. Samples also undergo whole genome sequencing and bioinformatics analysis at Argonne National Laboratory to characterize existing and emerging variants. UIC is working with a diverse community of partners ranging from summer camps in Southern Illinois to rural and tribal wastewater operators, catalyzing interest in scientific analysis and the links between infrastructure and public health.
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University of Kansas
Selection as a center of excellence has enabled the University of Kansas (KU) to monitor the community health of Kansas, including 95 rural counties, major urban centers, and military facilities. KU wastewater-based epidemiology monitoring efforts in Kansas’ eastern gateway communities provide a community health assessment of 454,041 individuals, including 84% of the population in Wyandotte County, a historically underserved community in Kansas. KU can now provide more frequent rural county testing (moving from a three-month to every other week rotation) and is sharing the data with local authorities, including wastewater treatment operators, county health departments, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
To learn more, contact:
Brendan M. Lynch
Weill Cornell Medicine
(New York City, NY)
As a center of excellence, Weill Cornell Medicine is now routinely processing a wide range of wastewater samples, for a better understanding of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, novel viruses, and movement of other relevant nucleic acids (bacteria, archaea, fungi, genes for antimicrobial resistance). Weill Cornell Medicine is collaborating with the University of Miami and also has collaborations with a large set of international sites through the MetaSUB Consortium. (Dr. Christopher Mason, a professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine, is founder and president of MetaSub.) These collaborations have resulted in processing over 10,000 samples to date, including from underserved populations in New York City and Miami, with sampling slated to continue until at least 2024.
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West Virginia University
Selection as a center of excellence has enabled West Virginia University (WVU) to improve turn-around time four-fold and to improve weekly max sustained sample throughput by an order of magnitude (from 72 to 720 samples per week). Many of the current and projected collection sites are embedded in traditionally underserved rural communities with minimal access to routine healthcare and the testing results will enable more equitable allocation of healthcare resources to these communities. WVU has partnered with Marshall University and the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health to regularly test samples from 60 sites in West Virginia.
To learn more, contact:
Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene
As Wisconsin’s public health laboratory, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) has been monitoring SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater since 2020. Selection as a center of excellence has enabled the WSLH to automate most of its wastewater testing workflow and has helped to improve the sequencing workflow to continue monitoring 40 locations across the state, providing additional geographical coverage where clinical testing and data may be limited. The WSLH is now able to sequence the wastewater for variant detection and discovery. The WSLH, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, provides wastewater data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS). The wastewater data generated is also used in a locally curated public dashboard and for informing hospital preparedness in Wisconsin.
Ceres Nanosciences is a privately held company, located in Prince William County, Virginia, focused on incorporating its novel Nanotrap® particle technology into a range of diagnostic and research products and workflows. The Nanotrap® particle technology can improve diagnostic testing by capturing, concentrating, and preserving low abundance analytes from biological samples. The Nanotrap® particle technology was developed with support from the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Learn more, including how Ceres is partnering with leading life science, bio-pharmaceutical, and diagnostic companies at www.ceresnano.com.
Ross M. Dunlap
Ceres Nanosciences, Inc
1.800.615.0418 ext. 202
This project has been funded in part by the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADxSM) initiative with federal funds from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health. The current contract is funded from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Health and Human Services, under Contract No. 75N92021C00012.