PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- There are only four of them in the country - and Philadelphia is now one of the big cities with its own genetic sequencing lab to identify COVID variants.
The new state-of-the-art lab makes it easier to identify new variants at a faster rate.
In operation since July 27, doctors and technicians are working to identify various COVID-19 variants through genome sequencing.
Dr. Vincent Tu, Bio-informatician at Philadelphia Public Health Lab, says they've only had one round of sequencing since they went live, but shared some information with us.
"I would say dominantly, we are seeing the same trends that have been reported in other public health labs, we've seen the BA.4 and BA.5 coming up," Tu said.
According to the health department, over the last two weeks, Philadelphia is averaging 288 new cases of COVID-19 per day.
Samples come from area hospitals, city clinics and even prisons.
The genetic sequencing being done provides information on what makes up the virus' RNA and how it can spread.
Testing in-house also helps identify any new variants and cuts down on the wait time for sample results by about two weeks.
"It helps us to provide a response to treatment, like how patients can be treated. Helps us understand the infectivity and transmission of the virus as well," said Bernadette Mathis, Philadelphia Public Health lab director.
Right now the lab can process up to 96 samples a week.
"We have a potential in the future to process up to 384," Dr. Mazin Sidahmed said.
The pandemic revealed a lack of sequencing resources nationwide.
The city approved the lab in December using millions in federal grant dollars.
The lab will also allow officials to keep track of if something is circulating as we head into fall.
Soon the lab will be sequencing other pathogens outside of COVID.
With this lab, the city will no longer have to rely on private and academic labs for this type of information.