Published On: Wed, Mar 25th, 2020

COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium to map COVID-19 spread

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A new COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium has been created with support from the UK government to map how the novel spreads and behaves by using whole-genome sequencing.

The University of Liverpool is the newest member to join the consortium which is said to include the UK’s leading clinicians and scientists.

The consortium backed by a £20 million investment will look for innovations that will help the UK respond to the prevailing COVID-19 outbreak and future pandemics, in order to save lives.

The COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium is composed of the NHS, Public Health Agencies, Wellcome Sanger Institute, and various academic institutions. The consortium is expected to bring extensive, rapid sequencing of the cause of COVID-19 and share the data with hospitals, regional NHS centres, and the government.

COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium to map COVID-19 spread

COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium to map COVID-19 spread. Photo courtesy of University of Liverpool.

A network of sequencing centres, which currently include Belfast, , Cambridge, Exeter, Glasgow, , Cardiff, Edinburgh, Norwich, Liverpool, Nottingham, Oxford, and Sheffield will look into the samples from thousands of with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

By studying the whole virus genome in people with COVID-19, scientists are expected to observe changes in the virus at a national scale to understand how the novel coronavirus is spreading and if different strains are being created. This is expected to help clinical care of patients and also in saving lives.

Patrick Vallance – UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser said: “Genomic sequencing will help us understand COVID-19 and its spread. It can also help guide treatments in the future and see the impact of interventions.

“The UK is one of the world’s leading destinations for genomics research and development, and I am confident that our best minds, working as part of this consortium, will make vital breakthroughs to help us tackle this .”

The University of Liverpool work is being steered by Professor Alistair Darby alongside Professor Steve Paterson and Professor Julian Hiscox.

Professor Alistair Darby said: “By the genetic code of thousands of viruses we can track how the virus is spreading through a population. This evidence will help Public Health England guide policy decisions. This information is also incredibly useful in evaluating how effective new drugs or control measures are.”

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