Tuesday, November 2, 2021

£12.2m boost for coronavirus genomic surveillance

The COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium is being given £12.2 million from the Department for Health and Social Care Testing Innovation Fund to expand whole genome sequencing of positive SARS-CoV-2 virus samples.

The funding will facilitate the genome sequencing capacity needed to meet the expected rise in COVID-19 cases in the UK this winter, which will help to map how the virus spreads and evolves.

The investment enables COG-UK to grow and strengthen current genomic surveillance efforts spearheaded by the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge, together with the four UK Public Health Agencies and other COG-UK partners, to boost sequencing capacity and cut  turnaround time from sample to genome sequence.

It is hoped that integrating real-time sequencing data within the four UK Public Health Agencies and NHS Test and Trace will not only help strengthen infection control measures but also the identification of patterns that might reveal otherwise unidentifiable opportunities for intervention.

Led by Professor Sharon Peacock of the University of Cambridge & Director Of Science at Public Health England, COG-UK is an innovative partnership of NHS organisations, the four Public Health Agencies of the UK, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and 12 academic institutions from across the UK providing world leading expertise in SARS-CoV-2 genomics and supporting sequencing and analysis capacity nationwide.

“To fully understand the spread and evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we must sequence and analyse the viral genomes,” said Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the COG-UK Consortium, Professor of Public Health and Microbiology at the University of Cambridge and a director Of Science (Pathogen Genomics) at Public Health England.

“The pattern of accumulation of mutations in the genomes enables us to determine the relatedness of virus samples and define viral lineages in order to understand whether local outbreaks are caused by transmission of single or multiple viral lineages. Analysis of viral genome sequences also allow us to monitor the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and assess whether specific mutations influence transmission, disease severity, or the impact of interventions such as vaccines.”

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