Hyderabad among consortium of 4 cities to enhance coronavirus genome surveillance

 A consortium of four Indian city clusters has been established to upscale coronavirus genomic surveillance, complementing national efforts led by the INSACOG.

The consortium comprising Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi, and Pune is established with generous support and seed funding from Rockefeller Foundation. The new effort will track the emergence of viral variants correlated to epidemiological dynamics and clinical outcomes, said CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB), Hyderabad, which is leading the consortium.

The consortium currently includes different partners in three other cities: NCBS-TIFR, InStem-DBT, and NIMHANS in Bengaluru; the CSIR-IGIB in New Delhi; and the Pune Knowledge Cluster, IISER-Pune, and CSIR-NCL in Pune.

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 would also focus on building capabilities for real-time surveillance and epidemiology.

It will work closely with local governments, hospitals and clinicians. In collaboration with the INSACOG, the consortium aims to eventually make this a national effort by expanding to other strategic locations in India.

Dr Rakesh Mishra, Advisor at the CSIR-CCMB, will lead these efforts along with Prof Satyajit Mayor of the NCBS, Prof L.s. Shashidhara of the Pune Knowledge Cluster, and Dr Anurag Agrawal, of the 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.

“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,” CSIR-CCMB Director, Dr Vinay Nandicoori, said.