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Updated statement on CanCOGeN and SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern

Monday, January 18, 2021

Ottawa, ON

(This statement is an updated version of our original statement of Dec. 22, 2020 when the first new variant was identified in the United Kingdom.)

The Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) was launched April 23, 2020, as part of a suite of federally funded medical countermeasures to support Canada’s COVID-19 public health response. 

CanCOGeN is committed to generating accessible and usable genomics data to inform public health and policy decisions.

CanCOGeN is actively supporting the Public Health Agency of Canada by identifying and sequencing high priority viral samples to help understand potential implications for Canada of the SARS-CoV-2 variant (B.1.1.7) identified in the United Kingdom in December and other variants of concern. 

The implications of mutations in the new variants remain the subject of scientific study and active international collaboration. Key scientific analysis related to these new variants can be found in this January 2021 WHO guidance document and threat assessment brief released by the EU Centre for Disease Control

We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

About CanCOGeN

CanCOGeN is a Genome Canada-led consortium of the six regional Genome Centres and federal and provincial public health authorities and their healthcare partners, academia, industry, hospitals, research institutes and large scale sequencing centers through CGEn. Our full list of partners can be found here

We are partners with COG-UK, the national COVID genomics consortium in the United Kingdom that is actively supporting tracking and analysis of the new variant.

CanCOGeN’s pan-Canadian network is generating genomics data to track transmission, inform public health policy and decision-making and guide testing and tracing strategies, vaccine development and drug treatments by sequencing the genomes of up to 10,000 Canadians and up to 150,000 viral samples.   

Two projects are part of CanCOGeN: VirusSeq and HostSeq. The VirusSeq team is actively supporting priority sample sequencing as well as regular unbiased surveillance to track and understand implications of variants of concern.

Overall, since April, CanCOGeN has sequenced over 25,000 viral genomes and almost 670 patient genomes and built the pan-Canadian “soft infrastructure” needed to ensure coordinated, high quality and cost-effective genomics data sequencing, sharing and analysis. 

More information on CanCOGeN can be found on our website and in our monthly newsletter.

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