A consortium of four city clusters — Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi, and Pune — has been established to upscale SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus genomic surveillance, complementing national efforts led by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG).
Established with support and seed funding from Rockefeller Foundation, the new effort will track the emergence of viral variants correlated to epidemiological dynamics and clinical outcomes.
The consortium led by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, includes different partners from the other cities: the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), the Institute For Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine (InStem) and Nimhans in Bengaluru; CSIR-IGIB in New Delhi; 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,” a statement issued read.
NCBS said the consortium will work closely with local governments, hospitals, and clinicians. In collaboration with INSACOG, the consortium aims to eventually make this a national effort by expanding to other strategic locations in India.
Dr Rakesh Mishra, advisor at CCMB will lead these efforts along with professor Satyajit Mayor, NCBS, professor LS Shashidhara, Pune Knowledge Cluster and Dr Anurag Agrawal, CSIR-IGIB.
The statement quoted the team and said, “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.”
Dr Vinay Nandicoori, director, CCMB added that all partner institutes have been fighting Covid-19 since its very beginning in the country and that this much-needed collaboration will bring all their strengths together in a structured fashion.
“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,” Mayor said.