News

23 Mar 2020

UK launches whole genome sequence alliance to map spread of coronavirus

Press Release

The £20 million investment could help public health agencies combat COVID-19 and future pandemics

  • The £20 million investment could help public health agencies combat COVID-19 and future pandemics.
  • Government and scientific community back new genome sequencing consortium to map spread of COVID-19
  • £20 million investment will allow scientists and clinicians to unlock secrets of the disease
    the genetic code could arm public health agencies and clinicians with a unique, cutting-edge tool to combat COVID-19

The government and the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser have today (Monday 23 March) backed the UK’s leading clinicians and scientists 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.

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.