A major new human whole genome sequencing study will take place across the NHS, involving up to 20,000 people currently or previously in an intensive care unit with COVID-19, as well as 15,000 individuals who have mild or moderate symptoms.
This ground-breaking research may help explain why some patients who contract the coronavirus experience a mild infection, others require intensive care and why some patients die from the disease.
Genomics England is partnering with the GenOMICC consortium, Illumina and the NHS to launch the research drive which will reach patients in 170 intensive care units throughout the UK.
Illumina will sequence all 35,000 genomes and share some of the cost via an in-kind contribution. The study, facilitated by the University of Edinburgh and multiple NHS hospitals, will explore the varied effects coronavirus has on patients, supporting the search for treatments by identifying those most at risk and helping to fast-track new therapies into clinical trials.
Patients will only be enrolled in the study if they, or their next of kin, have given their consent. As part of this study so far, DNA samples have been collected from almost 2000 patients.
Part of the overall genomic study will also focus on children and young adults severely affected by COVID-19.
The NIHR BioResource is partnering with GenOMICC and Genomics England to provide infrastructure, expertise and £1 million funding to investigate this by collecting samples from these young patients and their parents.
This work complements the UK COVID-19 Viral Sequencing Programme (COG-UK) announced in March and its work already underway to sequence the genome of the virus itself, led by Public Health England and the Sanger Institute.