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Genomics on a mission to tackle COVID-19
Marking CanCOGeN’s first anniversary

Over the last year, genomics data has become one of the most powerful tools in Canada’s arsenal against COVID-19. As we mark the first anniversary of the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network (CanCOGeN), learn more about how this groundbreaking pan-Canadian initiative has met the pandemic challenge head on – from informing public health decision-making, to mobilizing a rapid response to new variants of concern, to improving Canada’s preparedness for future pandemics and public health challenges.

January 2020

  • First COVID-19 case in Canada


  • First SARS-CoV-2 genomes sequenced in Canada
  • Community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 confirmed in Canada


  • World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a global pandemic
  • Genome Canada leads in proposing new national viral genomics network




  • CanCOGeN-HostSeq Research Ethics Board approval enables patient recruitment to begin
  • Canada passes 100K total COVID-19 cases
  • Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa joins CanCOGeN as Executive Director


  • First HostSeq study begins



  • Variant of concern (B.1.1.7) emerges in the U.K.


  • Variant of concern (B.1.351) emerges in South Africa



  • Approval of first COVID-19 vaccine in Canada
  • Variant of Concern (B.1.1.248 (P.1)) emerges in Brazil
  • First COVID-19 vaccine administered in Canada
  • Canada passes 500K total COVID-19 cases
  • CanCOGeN mobilizes within hours of reports that a new SARS-CoV-2 variant is spreading in the U.K.

January 2021



  • 20K viral sequences shared on GISAID


  • Canada passes 1M total COVID-19 cases
  • HostSeq has received 4K samples and sequenced 2K host genomes
  • Canadian VirusSeq Data Portal launched
  • 80K viral sequences completed

“Genome sequencing is a powerful tool in Canada’s public health response to COVID-19, allowing decision-makers to respond rapidly to new outbreaks and variants of concern. The Government of Canada is proud to work hand-in-hand with Genome Canada and the CanCOGeN network and partners to ensure Canada’s pandemic response is informed by real-time data and scientific evidence enabled by open data sharing and pan-Canadian collaboration.  Since the launch of the Variants of Concern Strategy, CanCOGeN and its partners have been working to quickly scale up genomic sequencing and research efforts to detect new variants, increase real-time data sharing capacity, and inform appropriate public health responses.” – Dr. Stephen Lucas, Deputy Minister of Health Canada (April 2021)

“As we mark one year of CanCOGeN, HostSeq has been established as a national project, enrolling multiple sites from coast to coast to coast, through a common project framework. HostSeq has completed whole genome sequencing of over 2,000 Canadians affected by COVID-19. The genetic data, in combination with associated clinical data, will provide a deeper understanding of the association between the genetic variants in patient genomes and clinical outcomes, allowing for a better understanding of disease susceptibility, progression, response to treatments and vaccine efficacy. Sharing the data internationally will position Canada as a global partner in population genomic studies, laying new groundwork for our response to future national and global pandemics.” – Dr. Naveed Aziz, Chief Administrative & Chief Scientific Officer, CGEn (April 2021)

“A year ago, Genome Canada set out on a ground-breaking mission to tackle COVID-19 with the launch of CanCOGeN: a grassroots pan-Canadian effort driven by Genome Canada that brings together the regional Genome Centres, Canadian scientists, the National Microbiology Lab and provincial public health labs and partners. As we mark our first anniversary, the importance of national coordination and data sharing in Canada’s pandemic response cannot be overstated. CanCOGeN continues to advance genomic surveillance to inform critical public health decision-making and will ensure Canada has the national genomics data infrastructure and capacity to respond to future public health challenges.” - Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Executive Director, CanCOGeN (April 2021)