Project Summary

The very food we eat can be deadly. Identifying the bugs that makes us sick is slow and cumbersome, even in the event of an outbreak.  Whole genome sequencing is a new technology that can replace current methods, speeding up detection and intervention to stop an outbreak of disease in its tracks.

Project Team

Team Members
Peter Gerner-Smidt, CDC
Cristopher Braden, CDC
Cheryl L. Tarr, CDC
Peter Evans, FDA
William Klimke, NIH
Kristin Holt, USDA
Kristy Kubota, Association for Public Health Laboratories 

Project Details

The Whole Genome Sequencing project is the beginning of the biggest transformation of public health microbiology in decades. This cross governmental project has the potential to revolutionize foodborne disease tracking and result in better protection of the American public from getting sick from the food they eat.

The project gathers every agency responsible for controlling foodborne illness in America to combat Listeria, the third leading cause of death from food poisoning. Each year more than 1,600 people get sick from Listeria, and about 1 in 5 dies. New technology can do more to protect people at higher risk for food poisoning and make food safer for everyone.

The Whole Genome Sequencing project paves the way for replacing the many laboratory methods used today to detect and investigate foodborne illness with a single, fast method in whole genome sequencing. This will cut the time needed to identify and characterize the bugs that make people sick in order to detect and investigate outbreaks.

Additional Information


HHS Innovates is one of the ways we are building an innovative culture at the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Innovates is a contest that recognizes and rewards action taken on good ideas. To date, HHS employees have submitted nominations of innovations for nearly 500 exciting new staff-driven innovative projects, and our employees have cast over 60,000 votes to select 42 finalists over seven rounds. This project is one of the finalists of HHS Innovates. Learn more about HHS Innovates.