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New partnership to sequence human genomes in fight against coronavirus

As of this morning – Wednesday May 13 – the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 226,463 with 32,692 deaths.

Genomics England is partnering with the GenOMICC consortium, Illumina and the NHS to launch a new research drive that aims to sequence human genomes to assist in the fight against coronavirus.

Under the plans, thousands of patients severely ill with coronavirus will have their genetic code studied to help scientists understand whether a person’s genetics play a role in how susceptible they are to the virus.

The GenOMICC study will take place across the NHS, involving up to 20,000 people currently or previously in an intensive care unit with coronavirus, as well as 15,000 individuals who have mild or moderate symptoms.

“Our genes play a role in determining who becomes desperately sick with infections like COVID-19. Understanding these genes will help us to choose treatments for clinical trials,” said Dr Kenneth Baillie, chief investigator at the University of Edinburgh, leading the study.

“The results will establish a unique platform for researchers to understand the human response to coronavirus infection, leading towards new treatments and ways to control infection spread,” added Paula Dowdy, general manager and SVP Illumina, EMEA.

The project is backed by funds of £28 million from Genomics England, UK Research & Innovation, the Department for Health and Social Care, and the National Institute for Health Research. Illumina will sequence all 35,000 genomes and ‘share some of the cost via an in-kind contribution’.

“This is a ground-breaking and far-reaching study which will harness the UK’s world-leading genomics science to improve treatments and ultimately save lives across the world,” said health secretary Matt Hancock.


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