Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

UK COVID-19 Sequencing Consortium Launches With £20M in Government, Wellcome Trust Funding

NEW YORK – A new UK research consortium unveiled Monday has obtained £20 million ($23.2 million) for sequencing-based studies of COVID-19 transmission and evolution of the virus that causes it.

The COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium includes the UK's National Health Service (NHS), public health agencies, and academic research institutions and is funded by NHS, Public Health England, UK Research and Innovation, and the Wellcome Trust.

"Samples from substantial numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be whole-genome sequenced and, employing the Sanger Institute's expertise in genomics and surveillance of infectious diseases, our researchers will collaborate with other leading groups across the country to analyze the data generated and work out how coronavirus is spreading in the UK," Wellcome Sanger Institute Director Mike Stratton said in a statement. "This will inform national and international strategies to control the pandemic and prevent further spread."

Research centers in more than a dozen cities across the country will perform the sequencing. The Wellcome Sanger Institute will also provide sequencing capacity and additional support and will collaborate with groups to analyze the samples. Their results will be shared with hospitals, regional NHS centers, and the UK government.

Sharon Peacock, Chair of Public Health and Microbiology at the University of Cambridge and director of the Public Health England National Infection Service will serve as consortium director; Ewan Harrison, of Cambridge's Department of Medicine, will serve as scientific project manager.

The consortium hopes sequencing will give healthcare providers and public policy makers an edge in responding to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Sequencing the virus can "help guide treatments in the future and see the impact of interventions," UK Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said in a statement.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the UK has 5,683 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 281 deaths, as of March 23. Worldwide, nearly 300,000 people have been confirmed to have COVID-19 and 12,784 have died, according to a World Health Organization situation report issued March 21.

"The government's investment is well-timed to accelerate the pace of viral genome sequence production and ensure this information is openly available to epidemiologists and virologists worldwide," Nick Loman, a sequencing expert at the University of Birmingham who is participating in the consortium, said in a statement issued by the university. "This will provide an unprecedented real-time view of COVID-19 virus evolution."

The new consortium will use a next-generation sequencing protocol designed for use in infectious disease outbreaks developed by the University of Birmingham's Josh Quick, the university said. This method works with both Illumina and Oxford Nanopore Technologies sequencing platforms, Loman said.

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.