PHE to provide genomic sequencing support to partners across the world

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Public Health England (PHE) has announced the first group of countries who will receive genomic sequencing support through the New Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP).

The NVAP was announced in January by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) as a means for the UK to offer support to countries that lack the capability and capacity to effectively identify, assess and track new SARS-CoV-2 variants among their population.

The platform was developed by PHE in April and will be taken forward by the new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). It will enable the UK’s unique sequencing and variant assessment capabilities to support other countries’ response to coronavirus, strengthening global health security and protecting people here and abroad.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, around a third of all SARS-CoV-2 sequences submitted to the international GISAID database have been from the UK, the second largest contributor globally.

The first countries to benefit from this support and expertise will be Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

“As we learn to live with COVID-19, we cannot underestimate the threat new variants could pose. This ground-breaking genomics work – building on the phenomenal genomics expertise in the UK – will allow our global partners to identify variant cases of Covid-19 and support us all to future-proof our way of life by preventing potential pandemics in the years ahead,” said Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid.

“We are working arm-in-arm with nations to tackle this global pandemic, helping us all return to normality as quickly as possible by saving lives and protecting livelihoods,” he added.

The support for each country is bespoke, but includes reagents and equipment to increase in-country sequencing, technical advice, bioinformatics support, and training.

Plans are also in development for the UK to collaborate with both the African Centre for Disease Control in Ethiopia, and Singapore.

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Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.