A new, global training programme that aims to provide deeper understanding about SARS-CoV-2 genomics and biodata, and how this knowledge can be used to prepare for future pandemics has been launched by COG-Train. This is a partnership between Wellcome Connecting Science (WCS) and the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, alongside their international collaborators, including Wellcome’s Africa and Asia programmes.
The first course in this programme − The Power of Genomics to Understand the COVID-19 Pandemic − launched on 7 February, 2022, and is hosted online on the FutureLearn platform. This course is the first in a series of five, all of which will be released online.
It is free to learners across the world and will show how genomics has improved the response to COVID-19, how COVID-19 vaccines and other therapies are developed, and how sharing genomic sequencing helps healthcare professionals understand disease epidemiology, allowing them to give better advice to policy makers and governments.
It was developed with an international audience in mind, with scientists working on SARS-CoV-2 genomics based in Argentina, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Thailand, and the UK contributing their knowledge and expertise to this course. A larger group of experts from Asia, Africa and Latin America have provided advice on the training needs in their regions.
The first course will provide a broad introduction to COVID-19 genome sequencing, and is designed for anyone interested in learning more about the genomic response to the current pandemic. This includes early career researchers, healthcare professionals, science journalists, policymakers, and those working in public health, or anyone who wants to know more about how genomics has helped shape the global response to the virus so far.
A series of more technical online courses for researchers and healthcare professionals will follow. These will concentrate on multiple topics, such as sampling and data acquisition, and the associated legal and ethical issues along with the sequencing and analysis of SARS-CoV-2 genomes, including the identification of new variants. In addition to this, one course will focus on genomics in clinical practice and the implications for public health policy, including how to advise policy makers and health ministries.
The wider programme will also feature ‘train-the-trainer’ courses, supporting scientists and healthcare professionals to learn about bioinformatics analysis and sequencing. This allows them to acquire the knowledge to develop and deliver their own courses, and train more healthcare workers in their own countries.
A ‘remote classroom’ model will be used to increase the reach and impact of the learning materials, with training being delivered simultaneously in multiple classrooms across many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This allows the knowledge and the experience gained from this pandemic to be shared globally.
The ‘remote classroom’ approach allows learners and trainers to interact in a structured manner, generating learning communities with a high level of peer support. Wellcome Connecting Science used this approach previously to deliver training in 31 classrooms across 16 African counties, reaching over 400 scientists at once.
Overall the programme will help create a global network of experts and frontline workers who will share data, support and advise on further developments in the fight against COVID-19, or other infectious disease outbreaks.
Dr Catherine Ludden, Director of Operations for the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) and Director of COG-Train, said: “Alongside Wellcome Connecting Science and the University of Cambridge, we have created this programme for those working at the frontline of the pandemic all over the world. As genomics continues to play a key role in the fight, it is vital that healthcare workers and researchers are provided with free access to training to develop their knowledge and skills in genomics. We want to ensure that we are doing everything that we can to support them so that globally, we are more prepared to track SARS-CoV-2 and any other pandemics in the future.”
Dr Eva Maria Cutiongco-de la Paz, a member of the focus group for COG-Train, from the Institute of Human Genetics, National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila said: “The pandemic underscored the huge roles that genomics and bioinformatics play in public health response to emerging infectious diseases. This training gives opportunities for countries with limited resources to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to address their own needs and to prepare them towards precision medicine, the future of healthcare.”
Dr Gerald Mboowa, who contributed to the course content, from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us the importance of integrating as well as strengthening pathogen genomics in every National Public Health Laboratory or Institution disease surveillance programme.”
Dr Treasa Creavin, Head of Conferences and Online Training at Wellcome Connecting Science said: “Sharing international expertise and knowledge about genomics is important to help health agencies around the world to identify and inform public health strategies to control disease outbreaks like COVID-19. This programme provides free, accessible training for people globally who are working at the forefront of COVID-19. It will use a unique blend of online courses, virtual versions of train-the-trainer and remote classrooms to deliver high quality training that can strengthen the capacity of scientists worldwide. This programme can also help create a network of professionals, so that information and support can be shared freely.”
Wellcome Sanger Institute
Cambridge, CB10 1SA
To contact COG-Train: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
To sign up to the first course, visit https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/genomics-covid-19/1
This programme is funded by Wellcome.
The Power of Genomics to Understand the COVID-19 Pandemic FutureLearn Course
Wellcome Connecting Science
Wellcome Connecting Science’s mission is to enable everyone to explore genomic science and its impact on research, health and society. Drawing on the ground-breaking research taking place on the Wellcome Genome Campus, Connecting Science inspires new thinking, sparks conversation, supports learning, and measures and understands global attitudes and perspectives. We connect researchers, health professionals and the wider public, creating opportunities and spaces to explore genomic science and its relationship with people, and the world around us.
Our Learning and Training offer spans basic research, cutting-edge biomedicine, and the application of genomics in healthcare. We fund, develop and deliver courses and conferences, working with globally-renowned scientists and healthcare professionals. Our Courses and Conferences team deliver events online, on the Campus, and in regional training hubs across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, that aim to educate, inspire, and transform careers.
COG-Train is an educational initiative developed jointly by the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium and Wellcome Connecting Science (WCS) to provide open-access learning in SARS-CoV-2 genomics. We will use our combined knowledge and experience to develop a training programme for countries seeking to establish or expand their own SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing programme. Although open to all, we will prioritise low- and middle-income countries.
COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK)
The current COVID-19 pandemic, caused by SARS-CoV-2, represents a major threat to health. The COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium has been created to deliver large-scale and rapid whole-genome virus sequencing to local NHS centres and the UK government.
Led by Professor Sharon Peacock of the University of Cambridge, COG-UK is made up of an innovative partnership of NHS organisations, the four Public Health Agencies of the UK, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and academic partners providing sequencing and analysis capacity. A full list of collaborators can be found here. Professor Peacock is also on a part-time secondment to PHE as Director of Science, where she focuses on the development of pathogen sequencing through COG-UK.
COG-UK was established in April 2020 supported by £20 million funding from the COVID-19 rapid-research-response “fighting fund” from Her Majesty’s Treasury (established by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance), and administered by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and the Wellcome Sanger Institute. The consortium was also backed by the Department of Health and Social Care’s Testing Innovation Fund on 16 November 2020 to facilitate the genome sequencing capacity needed to meet the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the UK over the winter period.
The Wellcome Sanger Institute
The Wellcome Sanger Institute is a world leading genomics research centre. We undertake large-scale research that forms the foundations of knowledge in biology and medicine. We are open and collaborative; our data, results, tools and technologies are shared across the globe to advance science. Our ambition is vast – we take on projects that are not possible anywhere else. We use the power of genome sequencing to understand and harness the information in DNA. Funded by Wellcome, we have the freedom and support to push the boundaries of genomics. Our findings are used to improve health and to understand life on Earth. Find out more at www.sanger.ac.uk or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and on our Blog.
Wellcome exists to improve health by helping great ideas to thrive. We support researchers, we take on big health challenges, we campaign for better science, and we help everyone get involved with science and health research. We are a politically and financially independent foundation. https://wellcome.org/