COG-UK and Wellcome Connecting Science (WCS) are delighted to have been jointly awarded a ‘Wellcome-FCDO Joint Initiative on Research in Epidemic Preparedness and Response grant’ of nearly £1 million to support the global scientific and public health community in SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing.
The COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium represents one of the largest worldwide aggregations of expertise and experience in SARS-CoV-2 sequencing. Members of the COG-UK consortium already support several countries and overseas institutions through knowledge exchange and collaboration, and provide a range of training resources on an ad hoc basis.
The Wellcome Connecting Science courses and conferences team develop and deliver training that spans basic research, cutting-edge biomedicine and the application of genomics in healthcare. They have an extensive track record in online training for genomics research, reaching over 60,000 online learners in the last year alone.
COG-UK and WCS now aim to use their resources and capabilities to develop a comprehensive global learning programme to disseminate the knowledge and applications of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing including analysis, data linkage and integration with public health and policy bodies.
Together, they will develop a series of online, open-access courses on all aspects of SARS-CoV-2 sequencing based on WCS’s successful use of the FutureLearn platform. This approach allows learners and trainers to interact in a structured manner, generating learning communities with high levels of peer support. COG-UK will share best practices underpinning the establishment of a national sequencing network, including sampling, data sharing, operations and information governance.
“With the ongoing emergence of variants of concern, increasing global capacity for rapid sequencing and analysis has become an urgent international priority. We are very pleased to be collaborating with Wellcome Connecting Science in order to share COG-UK experiences and expertise with the global scientific community. This work, and that of many others in the global pathogen genomics community, will provide a springboard from which to accelerate genome sequencing of SARS-COV-2 at the global level.”
Sharon Peacock (Executive Director and Chair, COG-UK)
The award will also enable the development of train-the-trainer courses in partnership with the Wellcome Africa and Asia programmes (AAPs). The Wellcome Connecting Science courses and conferences team have been running hands-on training for genomics research for more than thirty years, including running numerous courses in partnership with many of the AAPs. These courses support trainees to not only learn new technology, but also acquire the pedagogical tools to run their own courses.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of genomic research and highlighted the value of collaboration to broaden the impact of genomics-led science. We’re delighted to be partnering with COG-UK to build on our extensive experience in training researchers, to develop and deliver a training programme designed to advance the benefits of genomics and improve public health outcomes across the globe.”
Julian Rayner (Director of Wellcome Connecting Science)
The remote classroom model will be used to increase reach and impact of the learning materials. This year WCS have been developing the model, and in partnership with H3ABioNet will be simultaneously delivering training in 31 classrooms across 16 Africa countries, reaching over 400 participants. Both approaches (train-the-trainer and remote classrooms) are adaptable to online formats.
“Genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2, along with the monitoring and tracking of variants has played a pivotal role in the global response to this pandemic. Continued genomic sequencing will help us to remain vigilant against variants that could one day require us to update our treatments and vaccines against the virus. COG-UK’s tireless efforts to advance our knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 has been remarkable. This funding will provide the opportunity for the COG-UK team to share their significant experience in genomics sequencing and analysis with researchers all around the world. This will enhance genomic surveillance in regions of the world where data is urgently lacking, helping to inform local and regional public health responses and ultimately help save lives globally.”
Dr Divya Shah (Epidemics Research Lead at Wellcome)
The work made possible by this funding will make an important contribution to wider global efforts to sequence SARS-CoV-2 to inform future vaccine development and public health policy decisions.
The Joint Initiative on Research in Epidemic Preparedness and Response is a collaboration between Wellcome and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The initiative began in 2018 and is funding research around the world, facilitating collaboration and influencing policy change.
About 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.
About Wellcome Connecting Science
Wellcome Connecting Science’s mission is to enable everyone to explore genomic science and its impact on research, health and society.
We connect researchers, health professionals and the wider public, creating opportunities and spaces to explore genomic science and its impact on people. Connecting Science inspires new thinking, sparks conversation, supports learning and measures attitudes, drawing on the ground-breaking research taking place on the Wellcome Genome Campus.
Our Courses and Conferences team funds, develops and delivers training and conferences that span basic research, cutting-edge biomedicine, and the application of genomics in healthcare. We work with globally-renowned scientists and healthcare professionals, and run events online, on the Campus, and in regional training hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America, that aim to educate, inspire, and transform careers.
Wellcome supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. We support discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and we’re taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, global heating and infectious diseases.