Norwich scientists part of £20m consortium fighting coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 17:26 27 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:26 27 April 2020

Scientists at the Quadram Institute have been named as part of the new genome consortium. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Scientists at the Quadram Institute have been named as part of the new genome consortium. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Archant

Norwich is at the heart of the fight back against the coronavirus, as the government has named the city as one of the scientific hubs in its new genome consortium.

Inside Quadram Institute Norwich NHS Picture: BRITTANY WOODMANInside Quadram Institute Norwich NHS Picture: BRITTANY WOODMAN

The government this month announced the Genome Sequence Alliance, made up of the country’s leading scientists and clinicians.

The alliance has been given a £20m fund to map how COVID-19 spreads and behaves by 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.

A number of scientists from the Quadram Institute at the Norwich Research Park are involved.

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.

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.

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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 here in Norwich 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 Norwich as well as Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Nottingham, Oxford and Sheffield.

The consortium, made up of these academic institutions, as well as the NHS, Public Health agencies, 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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