Education

26.03.20

Cambridge to lead £20m fight against spread of coronavirus

The University of Cambridge will be taking a major role in the fight against the coronavirus spread after it was announced that a £20m investment will allow for large-scale investigation into the cause of the virus.

The national effort to understand and restrict the novel coronavirus infection is set for a boost as the Government and the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser announced the role of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium.

Included in this collaboration is the NHS, Public Health Agencies, UK Research and Innovation, Wellcome Sanger Institute and numerous academic institutions, who will work to map the cause of the disease with a view to share that data with hospitals, NHS centres and the Government.

A network of sequencing centres including Cambridge, Liverpool and Sheffield will be sent samples from patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to analyse the genetic code of samples in the UK and as a result, provide a cutting-edge tool to public health agencies and clinicians to fight the virus.

Studying the whole virus genome will allow scientists to track changes to the virus at a national scale to get a bigger picture of how the virus is spreading and pre-empt different strains emerging, saving lives and giving a boost to clinical care.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:

“At a critical moment in history, this new consortium will bring together the UK’s brightest and best scientists to build our understanding of this pandemic, tackle the disease and ultimately, save lives.

“As a Government we are working tirelessly to do all we can to fight COVID-19 to protect as many lives and save as many jobs as possible.”

The Consortium Director will be Professor Sharon Peacock, Chair of Public Health and Microbiology at the University of Cambridge and Director of the National Infection Service, Public Health England. She said:

“This virus is one of the biggest threats our nation has faced in recent times and crucial to helping us fight it is understanding how it is spreading”

 “Harnessing innovative genome technologies will help us tease apart the complex picture of coronavirus spread in the UK, and rapidly evaluate ways to reduce the impact of this disease on our society.”

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