The Government and the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser have today (Monday 23 March) backed the UK’s leading clinicians and scientists, including a team from Nottingham, to map how COVID-19 spreads and behaves by using whole genome sequencing.
Through a £20 million investment, the consortium will look for breakthroughs that help the UK respond to this and future pandemics, and save lives.
COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium – comprised of the NHS, Public Health Agencies, Wellcome Sanger Institute, and numerous academic institutions, will deliver large scale, rapid sequencing of the cause of the disease and share intelligence with hospitals, regional NHS centres and the Government.
Samples from patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be sent to a network of sequencing centres which currently includes Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford and Sheffield.
Professor Matthew Loose, Academic Lead for DeepSeq, School of Life Sciences, the University of Nottingham: “At DeepSeq we have access to rapid turnaround sequencing technology and a dedicated, experienced and committed team. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute our time, experience, equipment and knowledge to support global efforts to better understand and track SARS-CoV-2. I am particularly grateful to the team in DeepSeq who are facilitating this work and the support we have received from our University community.”
Professor Richard Emes Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, said: “We are proud to join this national partnership to track how the SARS-CoV-2 virus has affected the UK. The University of Nottingham has built an international reputation for genome sequencing at the DeepSeq facility at University of Nottingham and we are pleased to be able to support this initiative to generate and disseminate genomic information essential to better understand and combat this pandemic”
The Wellcome Sanger Institute, one of the world’s most advanced centres of genomes and data, will collaborate with expert groups across the country to analyse the genetic code of COVID-19 samples circulating in the UK and in doing so, give public health agencies and clinicians a unique, cutting-edge tool to combat the virus.
By looking at the whole virus genome in people who have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, scientists can monitor changes in the virus at a national scale to understand how the virus is spreading and whether different strains are emerging. This will help clinical care of patients and save lives.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “At a critical moment in history, this new consortium will bring together the UK’s brightest and best scientists to build our understanding of this pandemic, tackle the disease and ultimately, save lives.
“As a Government we are working tirelessly to do all we can to fight COVID-19 to protect as many lives and save as many jobs as possible.”
Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance 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 disease.”
The UK Consortium, supported by the Government, including the NHS, Public Health England, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and Wellcome, will enable clinicians and public health teams to rapidly investigate clusters of cases in hospitals, care homes and the community, to understand how the virus is spread and implement appropriate infection control measures.
This investment and the findings from the consortium will help prepare the UK and the world for future pandemics.