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Coronavirus: Scientists to lead fight against Covid-19 as consortium given £20m funding

PUBLISHED: 16:00 15 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:23 15 April 2020

Quadrum Institute Norwich NHS where scientists are currently working on a vaccine for coronavirus. Picture: Brittany Woodman

Quadrum Institute Norwich NHS where scientists are currently working on a vaccine for coronavirus. Picture: Brittany Woodman

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Scientists and clinicians are set to map how coronavirus spreads and behaves in a bid to fight back against the virus.

Quadram Institute Norwich NHS where scientists are currently working on a vaccine for coronavirus. Picture: Brittany WoodmanQuadram Institute Norwich NHS where scientists are currently working on a vaccine for coronavirus. Picture: Brittany Woodman

The government has announced that the Genome Sequence Alliance, made up of the country’s top scientists, has been given a £20m fund to explore Covid-19 using whole genome sequencing.

This means that the complete DNA of the virus would be identified, so as to build a better picture of how to combat it.

London has been hit harder by the pandemic than any other region in the UK, with more than 3,000 people in the capital dying after contracting Covid-19.

A number of scientists from the Quadram Institute at the Norwich Research Park are involved in the fight against the virus.

Quadrum Institute Norwich where scientists are currently working on a vaccine for coronavirus. Picture: Brittany WoodmanQuadrum Institute Norwich where scientists are currently working on a vaccine for coronavirus. Picture: Brittany Woodman

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The institute confirmed that Professor Mark Pallen, research leader at the Quadram Institute and principal investigator on the MRC CLIMB project – a computational environment used to store data by microbiologists – will be involved in the alliance.

The Quadram Institute’s Dr Justin O’Grady will lead laboratory work and head of informatics Dr Andrew Page will also be working on the project.

Professor Ian Charles, director of the Quadram Institute, said: “We welcome this vital work announced by the Chief Scientific Adviser to understand how Covid-19 spreads and behaves by using whole genome sequencing.

“It’s a testimony to the excellence of the scientific expertise we have that we will be contributing to this national, collaborative effort. I am very proud of all the efforts that my colleagues at the Quadram Institute and across the Norwich Research Park are making to reach the scientific answers we need to deal with this pandemic.”

Samples from patients with confirmed cases of Covid-19 will be sent to a network of sequencing centres including in London and Norwich as well as Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Oxford and Sheffield.

The consortium, made up of these academic institutions, as well as the NHS, Public Health agencies and Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge, will then feed intelligence back to hospitals, regional NHS centres and the government.

Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “At a critical moment in history, this consortium will bring together the UK’s best scientists to build our understanding of this pandemic, tackle the disease and ultimately, save lives.”


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