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Centre launches multi-institutional consortium to track new nCov-2 strain

The collaborators have also been tasked with determining the nature of this new strain in terms of its mortality, morbidity and its infection- spreading capacity.

By: Express News Service | Pune | December 31, 2020 3:11:47 am
A staffer of National Institute of Virology, Pune, disinfects the container carrying swab samples outside the main gate before entering the lab for testing on Saturday. (Express Photo: Ashish Kale)

The central government on Wednesday set up a consortium of 10 national research institutions, which will collaborate for carrying out effective surveillance and monitoring of the genomic variations observed in the new SARS nCov-2 virus strain, recently identified from the United Kingdom.

Called the Indian SARS CoV2 Genome Sequencing Consortium (INSACOG), it will be a platform for scientists, virologists, experts studying diseases and government officials to interact and track the genomic variations of the novel coronavirus.

Led by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the consortium will use its multi-laboratory network to ascertain the status of the new strain, help strategise early detection and provide timely implications on public health. The collaborators have also been tasked with determining the nature of this new strain in terms of its mortality, morbidity and its infection- spreading capacity.

Ten institutions operating either under DBT, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research or Indian Council of Medical Research have been included in this consortium. They are Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) and National Centre for Cell Sciences (NCCS); Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS); Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), located in Delhi; Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) from Hyderabad; Kalyani-based National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, and Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneshwar.

The NCDC has been entrusted with maintaining a database of all samples of the new variants. This data would then be epidemiologically tested and relevant information will be shared with the respective state or district for investigation, and later contact tracing and planning strategies, if needed.

Knowledge generated by this consortium will be utilised for developing diagnostics, potential therapeutics and even vaccines in the future.

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