The Sanger Institute began sequencing SARS-CoV-2 genomes in March 2020, as part of the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium (COG-UK). The work was quickly scaled up and sped up to aid the public health response. Sanger Institute staff have sequenced over 2.5 million SARS-CoV-2 genomes to date. This currently represents about 20 per cent of the global total of sequences publicly available¹.
Sequencing SARS-CoV-2 genomes is done to identify and track new variants of the virus, enable research, and assist the public health response. The viral genome data are also immediately made available to scientists around the world for analysis. The work builds on the Sanger Institute’s history and capacity for genomic surveillance in other diseases including malaria, cholera and the monitoring of antibiotic resistance in a range of bacteria.
In early 2021, the institute began working in partnership with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to undertake viral genome sequencing. The Institute now delivers hourly reports to UKHSA of the sequencing results, showing which variants are present, to aid rapid public health decision making. These data are a vital piece of information for tracking and analysing SARS-CoV-2 in the UK in real-time.
Processing SARS-CoV-2 for genome sequencing