HOUSTON -- SeqWright Inc., an international leader in the field of contract genomics services, announced today its agreement with the USDA's Exotic and Emerging Avian Viral Diseases Research Unit to perform full length sequencing of 1,000 influenza genomes.

Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory viral pathogen that infects about 10 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population each year. Among individuals who contract influenza, about 1 percent requires hospitalization and nearly 8 percent of those hospitalized die from flu or its complications. Vaccines prepared each year offer approximately 70-percent protection to influenza infection.

Recently, a potential pandemic strain of avian influenza (H5N1) emerged from Asia and circulated widely among aquatic migratory birds, domestic poultry and swine. The strain appears highly pathogenic when transmitted to humans and is often fatal. With these growing concerns, there is a clear need to identify the mechanisms underlying the variability in the influenza virus, as this knowledge can serve as a basis for designing more effective vaccines in the future.

Flu genomes are composed of about 13,500 bases, present in eight single-stranded RNA genome segments. Resequencing of these flu genomes by SeqWright will enhance scientific confidence in the reliability of the sequence data. This genetic information will be used to analyze viral evolution and strain relationships, as well as identifying mutations which effect flu virulence, adaptation and immune system evasion. This data will increase our understanding of flu evolution as well as improving strain tracking and vaccine development.

"SeqWright recognizes the importance of influenza in world health, and we look forward to assisting the USDA in their comprehensive influenza surveillance and control program," said Fei Lu, M.D., president and CEO of SeqWright.

SeqWright Incorporated is a world-class genomic support organization with more than 12 years of experience specializing in DNA discovery products and customized services designed for the scientific community.

SOURCE: SeqWright Inc.