Newly formed four city clusters to intensify India’s COVID-19 genome sequencing efforts

Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG), a network that monitors mutants of Covid-19 virus has newly formed a consortium of four city clusters to ramp up India’s coronavirus genome sequencing work. American Rockefeller Foundation will fund the cluster initiative.

Research institutes in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Pune form these four clusters. “The consortium will track the emergence of viral variants correlated to epidemiological and clinical outcomes,” the media statement from Bengaluru based National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), which is a part of the consortium, said.

The coalition aims to develop strategies and capabilities to identify variants of concern before they spread widely and cause outbreaks. “This will help correlate with clinical symptoms and disease severity, potentially associated with emerging variants,” the team said.

The initiative involves target sampling strategies based on granular epidemiological and clinical data. It will also include intense environmental surveillance and advanced computational techniques to get accurate data. It will also focus on building capabilities for real-time surveillance and epidemiology.

CSIR-Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, will lead the consortium. Other partners include NCBS-TIFR, Institute for Stem Cell Science & Regenerative Medicine (InStem) and NIMHANS in Bengaluru, CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in Delhi, Pune Knowledge Cluster, IISER and CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune. CCMB advisor Rakesh Mishra will lead the efforts.

CCMB director Vinay Nandicoori said the much-needed collaboration will bring all strengths of all these institutes together in a structured fashion.

Bengaluru partner NCBS director Satyajit Mayor said: “leveraging the capacity of each of the city clusters both in academic institutions and industry, is a much-needed effort at this time. This can help create a sustainable platform for genomic surveillance long after Covid, and for many other infectious diseases.”

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