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FIND, CSIR-IGIB to boost genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in India

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New Delhi, Dec 6 (IANS) Geneva-based Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) on Monday announced partnership with scientific research institute CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrated Biology (IGIB) to aid India’s fight against Covid-19 by boosting sequencing capacity across the country.

The partnership aims to decentralise genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2, down to the district level by setting up “MicroLabs” that enable sequencing, analysis, and interpretation of sequencing data with minimal turnaround time and infrastructure limited settings.

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The emergence of Omicron, designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on November 26, has reiterated the need for enhanced sequencing capacity, which remains pivotal in tracking new variants and informing accurate tests and appropriate treatment.

Point-of-care genome sequencing is designed to combine scale, speed and sensitivity, and is expected to become a gold standard for vigilance, analysis and control of pathogen spread. In addition to supporting public health decision making for Covid-19, building point-of-care sequencing capacity will have far reaching implications for short- and long-term pandemic preparedness.

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“Omicron has shown us just how vital genomic sequencing is for monitoring the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and identifying emerging mutations rapidly to inform public health action locally and globally. Building on our track record of strengthening diagnostic capacity in India as well as our established sequencing programme at FIND, this partnership with CSIR-IGIB will bring sequencing capabilities closer to patients, which means faster response times that can help keep everyone safe,” said Dr Sanjay Sarin, Vice President, Access at FIND — a global alliance for diagnostics, in a statement.

“MicroLabs based genome sequencing of pathogens would take labs to the people, allowing for rapid variant detection and prioritising sequencing of clinically relevant samples. This would advance a ‘hub-and-spoke’ model of genomic surveillance, comprising both – MegaLabs (high-throughput sequencing) and MicroLabs (high-priority sequencing). This is especially important as we make progress towards monitoring the ports of entry for possibly tracking of Omicron entry to India. In addition to VOC, understanding the genomic mutations underlying vaccination breakthrough is also equally important and merits tracking through network of MicroLabs,” added Dr Rajesh Pandey, Principal Scientist, CSIR-IGIB.

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The partnership will provide strategic guidance to incorporate next-generation sequencing into broader national disease surveillance frameworks and inform data analyses, management, and sharing based on global data policies and guidelines. It will provide a platform for knowledge-sharing and lessons learnt to inform national capacity building efforts and policy guidance.

–IANS

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