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Pune: How CSIR-NCL is playing key role in Omicron fightback

🔴 The Pune Knowledge Cluster is coordinating a genome surveillance project funded by Rockefeller Foundation as part of which samples are procured from all over Pune and beyond through the B J Government Medical College.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: December 6, 2021 7:44:18 am
The scientists foresee making sequencing hubs a permanent part of pandemic preparedness, which is expected to tremendously improve responses to problematic variants for any infectious disease in the future. (File)

Working round-the-clock on genome sequencing in the last few days, CSIR-NCL and IISER, Pune, have become an integral factor in Omicron detection not just in Pune but the entire state and, by extension, in India’s Covid-19 fightback.

“Our team at the genome sequencing and surveillance lab diligently worked without any delay once they received a suspected Omicron positive sample. Our goal was to hasten the detection and identification of this rapidly transmissible South African variant of concern in Pune,” said a scientist.

The Pune Knowledge Cluster is coordinating a genome surveillance project funded by Rockefeller Foundation as part of which samples are procured from all over Pune and beyond through the B J Government Medical College. The case of the person returning from Finland was flagged by GenePathDx when the sample did not appear to be Delta strain in their test. CSIR-NCL (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Chemical Laboratory) sequenced this sample on priority. “There was timely action taken by GenePathDx,” Dr L S Shashidhara, coordinator of the knowledge cluster, told The Indian Express.

“By detecting an Omicron positive sample so rapidly, we have shown the vital role of genomic surveillance and hope to potentially slow down the spread of the virus,” Dr Anu Raghunathan, senior principal scientist, CSIR-NCL and principal investigator of the Covid genome surveillance project, said.

“We are working on genomic surveillance consistently and have a team of scientists and students tracking genomic changes of the virus at a speed and scale never seen before,” the scientist said.

According to Raghunathan, the scientists foresee making sequencing hubs a permanent part of pandemic preparedness, which is expected to tremendously improve responses to problematic variants for any infectious disease in the future.

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