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Genomics-Enhanced Rapid COVID-19 Pandemic Response

COVID-19 Regional Genomics Initiative
Genome Centre(s):
Genome Alberta
Project Leader(s):
Matthew Croxen (University of Alberta), Linda Chui (University of Alberta)
Fiscal Year Project Launched: 
Project Description: 

As of April 21, 2020, there are over 2.5 million COVID-19 cases worldwide; at the time of writing, 40,000 of those were in Canada. Many more people are expected to die as a direct result of COVID-19, but understanding the spread of the virus will help mitigation efforts. Mutations are common and expected in coronavirus' genomes. We can take advantage of these mutations to track the spread of the viruses in the community, providing vital public health information on the movement and potential sources of disease. At the time of writing, there are over 3,095 cases in Alberta. To improve on the speed in generating this genetic information, we will work with the University of Calgary Centre for Health Genomics and Informatics (CHGI) to rapidly generate genetic sequences of over 1,900 of these viruses (we expect more cases with time). Meanwhile, we will also validate automated methods to rapidly sequence viral genomes at the Public Health Laboratory on an ongoing basis. This automation process can be deployed in other laboratories across the world. The genetic information that we generate from the Alberta COVID-19 viruses will be jointly analyzed along with thousands of other COVID-19 viruses from across the world. This information will help public health better understand the dynamics of viral spread in Alberta so that policies to stop disease spread can be used more effectively, as well as provide important information for diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccine development.