Eight national labs to develop strategies to identify ‘variants of concern’ before they spread widely
A consortium of four city clusters – Bangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Pune – has been established with eight national labs to upscale SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus genomic surveillance and to complement the national efforts led by INSACOG – Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium on Thursday.
Led by Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, the consortium currently includes different partners in three other cities: National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bengaluru – Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai; Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine (InStem-Department of Biotechnology (DBT) – National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru; CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology – IGIB in New Delhi; Pune Knowledge Cluster, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISECR), Pune and CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune.
Advisor at CCMB Rakesh Mishra will lead these efforts along with Prof. Satyajit Mayor of NCBS, Prof L.S. Shashidhara, Pune Knowledge Cluster and Dr Anurag Agrawal, CSIR-IGIB. “Our aim is to develop strategies and capabilities to identify ‘variants of concern’ before they spread widely and cause outbreaks. This will also help correlate with clinical symptoms and disease severity, potentially associated with emerging variants,” said the team, in an official press release.
In collaboration with INSACOG, the consortium aims to eventually make this a national effort by expanding to other strategic locations in India by working closely with the respective local governments, hospitals and clinicians. The consortium has been established with generous support and seed funding from Rockefeller Foundation, it said.
The new effort will track the emergence of viral variants correlated to epidemiological dynamics and clinical outcomes. The consortium aims to develop targeted sampling strategies based on granular epidemiological and clinical data.
Coupled with intense environmental surveillance and advanced computational techniques, the consortium will also focus on building capabilities for real-time surveillance and epidemiology. “All the partner institutes have been fighting COVID-19 since its very beginning in the country. This much-needed collaboration will bring all their strengths together in a structured fashion,” observed CSIR-CCMB Director Dr Vinay Nandicoori.
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