Researchers in the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium will map how COVID-19 spreads and evolves, thanks to a £12.2 million funding boost.
The funding from the Department for Health and Social Care Testing Innovation Fund will help to facilitate the genome sequencing capacity needed to meet the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases expected in the UK this winter, by allowing the team to expand whole-genome sequencing of positive SARS-CoV-2 virus samples.
Dr Thushan de Silva, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease, the lead consortium member from Sheffield, said, “SARS-CoV-2 viral sequencing has been invaluable in several areas, including documenting new viral variants and investigating transmission within hospital settings.”
Since its launch in March 2020, COG-UK has generated and made publicly available more than 100,000 SARS-CoV-2 genomes. The additional investment will enable COG-UK to grow and strengthen current genomic surveillance efforts, with the aim of increasing sequencing capacity across the national network and reducing turnaround time from patient sample to genome sequence.
The viral genome sequencing data will be integrated within the four UK Public Health Agencies and NHS Test and Trace to help understand outbreaks and strengthen infection control measures. It will also be used to detect and track mutations that could be harmful to human health, such as those that could reduce vaccine efficacy.
COG-UK is made up of a partnership of NHS organisations, the four Public Health Agencies of the UK, and researchers from academic partners across the UK, including the University of Sheffield, University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, University of Edinburgh, University of Exeter, University of Glasgow, Imperial College London, University of Liverpool, University of Nottingham, Northumbria University, University of Oxford, University of Portsmouth, the Quadram Institute – Norwich, Queen’s University – Belfast, University College London, and the Wellcome Sanger Institute. In addition, a large number of other institutes and partners are essential to the COG-UK effort.