A Made-in-Canada data solution to support Canada’s Variants of Concern Strategy
Genome Canada, in partnership with the Government of Canada, is pleased to announce the development of a new Canadian SARS-CoV-2 Data Portal that will manage and facilitate data sharing of viral genome sequences among Canadian public health labs, researchers and other groups interested in accessing the data for research and innovation purposes.
The announcement follows a rapid funding opportunity launched last month by the Genome Canada-led Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) that is directly supporting Canada’s Variants of Concern Strategy announced on February 12, 2021 by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). CanCOGeN’s VirusSeq initiative is working with PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory, Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, as well as other provincial and territorial partners to support the strategy. Together, these partners are and quickly scaling up genomic sequencing, surveillance and research efforts to detect new variants, increase real-time data sharing capacity, and inform appropriate public health and policy responses.
The development and implementation of the new Canadian SARS-CoV-2 Data Portal will be led by Dr. Guillaume Bourque (McGill University) and his team. This team, in collaboration with CanGOGeN and world-leading genomics scientists specializing in data science and policy, including Drs. Fiona Brinkman (Simon Fraser University), William Hsiao (Simon Fraser University), Lincoln Stein (Ontario Institute for Cancer Research) and Yann Joly (McGill University), will oversee technical interactions with the National Microbiology Laboratory and provincial public health labs across the country.
Dr. Bourque’s team will work with industry partner DNAstack, leveraging its COVID Cloud platform, to develop and provide real-time analytical dashboards, data exploration, and standards-compliant data interfaces. COVID Cloud was developed in collaboration with a national consortium of academic, not-for-profit, and industry partners, funded through Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster. Partnering with DNAstack and this consortium will provide a complementary overall solution that best meets the needs of different stakeholders in Canada.
Genome Canada, in its role as lead on CanCOGeN, will act as a data custodian with overall responsibility for and oversight of the data within the Canadian SARS-CoV-2 Data Portal.
Innovative data solutions and partnerships like the one announced today harness the power of genomics to develop tools that help Canada contain this pandemic more quickly and be better prepared for future public health challenges.
“Today’s announcement represents a significant step forward for the Canadian response to COVID-19. As a key partner in Canada’s Variants of Concern Strategy, Genome Canada is proud to introduce a SARS-CoV-2 Data Portal that will ensure Canadian oversight and access to viral genome data, allowing the research community to quickly study the data while ensuring patient privacy and continue contributing to national and international surveillance and public health decision-making.”
- Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO of Genome Canada
“Much of the world’s progress to date in the fight against COVID-19 was enabled by rapid data sharing. With this support from CanCOGeN, we will build a data portal for all Canadian SARS-CoV-2 sequences and associated metadata. This made-in-Canada open science solution will streamline access for the scientific community, public health officials and other stakeholders to critical national datasets, empowering decisions and enabling discoveries that will benefit Canada and the rest of the world.”
- Dr. Guillaume Bourque, Department of Human Genetics, McGill University, and Director, Canadian Centre for Computational Genomics
- In April 2020, the federal government announced a $40 million investment in the creation of the Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN), a Genome Canada-led consortium of Canadian federal, provincial and regional public health authorities and their healthcare partners, academia, industry, hospitals, research institutes and large-scale sequencing centres.
- Beyond CanCOGeN, Genome Canada has committed significant funding to COVID-19-related initiatives, including the COVID-19 Regional Genomics Initiative, as well as partnerships with CIHR on the Canadian 2019 Novel Coronavirus Rapid Research Funding Opportunity and with CIFAR on the AI and COVID-19 Catalyst Grants Initiative.
- The Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) web page
- The CanCOGeN VirusSeq initiative web page
- CanCOGeN monthly briefing archive
- Integrated Variants of Concern Strategy to track fast-spreading SARS-CoV-2 variants (Feb. 12, 2021)
- Genome Canada statement on CanCOGeN and SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (Jan. 18, 2021)
- Canadian National COVID Genomics Surveillance Priorities for Existing and Emerging Variants of Concern (Dec. 30, 2020)