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Canadian Consortium Launches COVID Cloud to Support Molecular Research

NEW YORK – A consortium of Canadian informatics firms, pharmaceutical companies, and research institutes has pledged C$5.1 million (US$3.9 million) to tailor a bioinformatics and health data platform for COVID-19 research across the country.

Called COVID Cloud, the project, led by software developer DNAstack, will build on the Toronto-based company's technology. Like earlier DNAstack technology, COVID Cloud is supported by Canada's Digital Technology Supercluster, a federally funded consortium focused on advancing Canadian efforts to develop and apply digital technologies to challenges in the natural resources, healthcare, and industry. 

Early in the pandemic, DNAstack introduced an app called Beacon for SARS-CoV-2 to enable the scientific and medical communities to share and discover knowledge about the genetics of the virus in real time.

Other partners in COVID Cloud include BioSymetrics, the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University, DNAstack, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), the OICR-founded funding entity FACIT, Genome BC, Mannin Research, McMaster University, Microsoft Canada, Ontario Genomics, Roche Canada, the Sunnybrook Research Institute, and the Vector Institute.

Participants hope to facilitate easy sharing of genomics and health data to support collaborative research into COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COVID Cloud will follow standards set by the Global Alliance for Genomics & Health.

"Tools that allow us to interrogate SARS-CoV-2 at a molecular level are essential to addressing this global health crisis, both now and in the future," Samira Mubareka, Sunnybrook microbiologist and infectious disease physician, said in a statement. "The insights we will learn by analyzing integrated datasets using technology platforms like COVID Cloud can increase our preparedness for future waves and outbreaks."

Mubareka is cochairing translational science for COVID Cloud, along with Gabriel Musso, chief scientific officer for BioSymetrics.

"This project shows how Canadian partnerships across multiple organizations and sectors can drive innovation, help us address global health issues, showcase Canadian expertise, and position us well to rebuild and grow our economy," added Digital Technology Supercluster CEO Sue Paish.