7 Jan 2021

‘World-class’ CLIMB project receives £1.2 million funding boost from UKRI


As part of a wider £213 million investment to expand and upgrade ‘world-class’ research infrastructure, the Cloud Infrastructure for Microbial Bioinformatics (CLIMB) project — the ultra-high performance computing infrastructure which has supported the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium throughout the pandemic — has received a £1.2 million funding boost from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The CLIMB project, based in Birmingham and Cardiff, has proved pivotal to the consortium in providing the computing infrastructure and bioinformatics analysis capability that has helped sequence over 170,000 virus genomes to date — helping to understand the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and advise local and national control strategies.

What is CLIMB?

CLIMB was launched in 2014, supported by a grant from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to meet the needs of medical microbiologists handling vast amounts of data coming from high-throughput genomics. It is an open, cloud-based computing infrastructure for developing and sharing datasets and bioinformatics software, tools and methods to interpret ‘big data’.

CLIMB represents a partnership between the Universities of Bath, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leicester, Swansea and Warwick, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Quadram Institute.

How has CLIMB supported the COG-UK consortium?

After the UK Government and Chief Scientific Adviser announced a £20 million initiative to map how COVID-19 spreads and evolves on March 23rd 2020 — the COG-UK consortium — CLIMB’s pre-existing infrastructure and expertise allowed the consortium to launch quickly and deliver rapid genome sequencing data of SARS-CoV-2.

Insights from these data have informed national decision-making of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) as well as the local public health level, including monitoring outbreaks in real-time.

World-class research infrastructure

The £213 million funding, delivered through the government’s World Class Labs funding scheme and made through seven of UKRI’s research councils, covers investments in all disciplines from physical sciences to arts and humanities.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:  “The response from UK scientists and researchers to coronavirus has been nothing short of phenomenal. We need to match this excellence by ensuring scientific facilities are truly world class, so scientists can continue carrying out life-changing research for years to come as we build back better from the pandemic.”

Read more about the investment here.


COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK)

The current COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the 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 twelve 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 March 2020 supported by £20 million funding from the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, administered by UK Research and Innovation.

COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK)

The COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium works in partnership to harness the power of SARS-CoV-2 genomics in the fight against COVID-19.

Led by Professor Sharon Peacock of the University of Cambridge, COG-UK is made up of an innovative collaboration of NHS organisations, the four public health agencies of the UK, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and sixteen academic partners. A full list of collaborators can be found here.

The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by SARS-CoV-2, represents a major threat to health. The COG-UK consortium was formed in March 2020 to deliver SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing and analysis to inform public health policy and to support the establishment of a national pathogen sequencing service, with sequence data now predominantly generated by the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the Public Health Agencies.

SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing and analysis plays a key role in the COVID-19 public health response by enabling the identification, tracking and analysis of variants of concern, and by informing the design of vaccines and therapeutics. COG-UK works collaboratively to deliver world-class research on pathogen sequencing and analysis, maximise the value of genomic data by ensuring fair access and data linkage, and provide a training programme to enable equity in global sequencing.