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March 23, 2020 Monday 01:34:48 PM IST

Cambridge to spearhead an alliance to map spread of COVID-19 coronavirus

Leadership Instincts

The University of Cambridge is to take a leading role in a major national effort to help understand and control the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19) announced by the Government and the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser. Through a £20 million investment administered by the University, the 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 University, together with the Wellcome Sanger Institute, one of the world’s most advanced centres of genomes and data, will coordinate the collaboration between expert groups across the UK 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 the clinical care of patients and save lives.


Whole-genome sequencing involves reading the entire genetic code of the virus. It will help scientists understand COVID-19 and its spread. It can also help guide treatments in the future and help monitor the impact of interventions.

The UK Consortium, supported by the Government, including the NHS, Public Health England, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and Wellcome, will enable clinicians and public health teams to rapidly investigate clusters of cases in hospitals, care homes and the community, to understand how the virus is spread and implement appropriate infection control measures.

The Consortium Director will be Professor Sharon Peacock, Chair of Public Health and Microbiology at the University of Cambridge and Director of the National Infection Service, Public Health England.

Work at the University of Cambridge will take place in the recently-opened Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology & Infectious Disease (CITIID). Dr Ewan Harrison from the Department of Medicine will serve as the Scientific Project Manager. Professor John Danesh from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care will serve on the consortium’s Steering Committee.



(Content Courtesy: https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/cambridge-to-spearhead-ps20million-alliance-to-map-spread-of-covid-19-coronavirus) 


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