Genome Canada and McGill to Track Worrisome COVID-19 Variants | Writing


Genome Canada today launched the Canadian Data Portal VirusSeq to track the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic across Canada. Guillaume, researcher at McGill University Bourque, professor in the Department of Human Genetics, with his research team, led the development of the portal. They worked in collaboration with CanCOGeN VirusSeq and world-renowned genomics scientists, including Drs. Fiona Brinkman (Simon Fraser University), William Hsiao (Simon Fraser University), Lincoln Stein (Ontario Institute for Cancer Research) and Yann Joly (McGill University).

The portal enables real-time data sharing and brings together the genomic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 used to detect, diagnose and anticipate the spread of new variants. Related metadata from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) and public health laboratories across the country will also be included. Genome Canada will act as the data custodian.

The portal is one of the main deliverables of the $ 53 million Variants of the concern strategy the Government of Canada announced on February 12, 2021. Scientists, public health officials and other experts involved in shaping Canada’s pandemic response will have a clear picture of the virus across the country, including including data on the detection, transmission, evolution and monitoring of variants of concern.

“The world still has a long way to go to defeat COVID-19, and rapid data sharing is one of the most effective weapons at our disposal,” says Bourque, director of bioinformatics, McGill University and Center d innovation Génome Québec. “With the launch of the VirusSeq data portal, we now have a platform for all Canadian SARS-CoV-2 sequences and associated metadata. Ultimately, it will amplify our ability to make the kinds of decisions and discoveries that will pull Canada out of this pandemic and help us manage the next.

Build tools, facilitate analysis

Dr. Bourque’s team will work with DNA stack to integrate COVID Cloud, a cloud-based platform that helps researchers and policymakers derive information about COVID-19 from genomics and other data sets. COVID Cloud shares data on open standards developed by the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health and provides tools for researchers to find, visualize and analyze datasets in the cloud. COVID Cloud is developed by a consortium of Canadian partners and funded by Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster.

Until now, Canadian public health laboratories and researchers have limited themselves to portraying the COVID-19 pandemic by contributing and accessing data through various international databases, including the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISAID), the world’s largest database of coronavirus sequences. However, no database contained all the information required for a comprehensive pan-Canadian genomic surveillance strategy, and until today there were many barriers to sharing available data specific to the Canadian context.

The portal is now online and ready to receive viral genome sequences and metadata from laboratories and researchers across Canada in the days and weeks to come. The portal will evolve with the addition of viral sequences, the Bourque team will continue to develop additional tools to navigate, analyze and interpret the data.

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is the first medical doctorate university in Canada. McGill is consistently ranked among the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned higher education institution with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 vocational schools, 300 study programs and over 40,000 students, including over 10,200 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, with its 12,800 international students representing 31% of the student body. More than half of McGill students claim a mother tongue other than English, including about 19% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

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