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COVID-19 sequencing project awarded £1.2m funding

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The £1.2 million will help track the spread of the pandemic

Supercomputing facilities set up to track the spread and evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic has been awarded £1.2m in government funding to expand globally.

The new funding will enable the CLIMB COVID-19 project, led by the University of Birmingham and Cardiff University, to carry out significant upgrades to its computational equipment, enabling it to process and store genomic data on a global scale.

CLIMB COVID-19 is a big data project currently supporting the COVID-19 Genomics Consortium (COG-UK), set up to deliver large scale, rapid sequencing of the causes of COVID-19.

Partners also include the Universities of Warwick, Swansea, Bath and Leicester, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Quadram Institute Bioscience.

The project has so far sequenced more than 150,000 genomes in the UK, with the new funding enabling global genomic data to be stored and processed. It will also enable researchers to extend research to cover other pathogens with pandemic potential, as well as tracking other threats such as anti-microbial resistance.

Nick Loman, professor of microbial genomics and bioinformatics at the University of Birmingham, said: “This funding will be transformative to pay for additional capacity to permit us to offer our SARS-CoV-2 analysis infrastructure to a global audience.

“We anticipate being able to help support the sequencing efforts of many countries who may have limited computing resources by offering our cloud-based system which can be accessed from anywhere.

“Researchers can see how genomes from their local population relate to the hundreds of thousands of others collected around the world easily.

“By allowing a global audience to benefit from the new CLIMB resources we can help facilitate equitable data sharing for fighting COVID-19.”

Cardiff University’s professor Thomas Connor added: “The success of CLIMB-COVID has been built on collaborative endeavour, and we are excited that we will be able to support global collaboration through this new award.

“Within the NHS in the UK we have seen first-hand the considerable benefit of genomics to support the response to COVID-19. This funding will provide a valuable route to share these translational benefits with other public health agencies and healthcare professionals around the world.”

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