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Grant awarded to develop whole genome sequencing for COVID-19

February 19, 2020

A team of researchers, including Sunnybrook scientists Dr. Samira Mubareka and Dr. Robert Kozak along with Dr. Allison McGreer of Sinai Health, has received a $120,000 grant to develop genome sequencing for COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) that could be used in hospital laboratories.

Dr. Mubareka, Dr. Kozak and Dr. McGreer are coordinating a Toronto 2019-nCoV Working Group, which is looking to further understand the new pathogen.

The grant, received from the McLaughlin Centre, will allow the group to use next generation sequencing technologies to capture COVID-19 from patient samples and generate whole genome sequences in real-time.

Viral genomes available to date are limited. Timely generation of additional and accurate genomic data will improve diagnostics and help researchers better understand COVID-19, including how much virus is shed and whether this relates to disease severity or poor outcomes. This will then allow the researchers to further explore key questions that are relevant to front-line healthcare providers and the public, like how the virus transmits, and for how long.

“This grant lets us perform real-time science,” said Dr. Mubareka. “By leveraging existing projects and technologies, the city’s microbiology, infectious diseases and genomics experts are all working together to improve our understanding of this emerging pathogen.”

“We want to develop a sensitive, real-time advanced sequencing approaches to help hospital labs better detect and characterize the virus, and to publicly share whole-genome sequencing data for epidemiologic studies and vaccine design.”

Read more about this work in U of T News