COG-UK One Year On

Issued: Thu, 25 Mar 2021 00:00:00 GMT

The MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) is part of COG-UK, the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium. Together we are delivering large-scale, rapid whole-genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2. 

On 23 March 2020, the government announced the launch of a whole genome sequence alliance to map how SARS-CoV-2 spreads and behaves. Backed by the UK’s leading genomic scientists and public health professionals, the COG-UK consortium was established to help better understand the virus and equip public health agencies, the NHS and UK government with the tools to combat COVID-19.  

Now, one year on, we are joining our COG-UK partners in reflecting on what we have achieved together and recognising the contributions CVR is making to the consortium.  

Images of the CVR staff involved in COG-UK. Each image is framed in the shape of a COG-UK cog.

The consortium has achieved a lot by working together over the past year:

•  373,616* SARS-CoV-2 genomes sequenced in total
•  28,695 — highest number of genomes sequenced in a week
•  >1500 genomes sequenced within the first month
•  600+ members & contributors
•  16 academic partners
•  4 public health agencies
•  ~60 collaborating organisations
•  ~30 international collaborations
•  35 publications
•  15 reports to SAGE
•  >£30 million awarded in funding

*as of 24 March 2021.

CVR contributions have been incredibly important in this, and COG-UK research we have contributed to has included: 

Travel-related importations of SARS-CoV-2 into Scotland. This work formed part of a SAGE report that has helped to shape travel policy for the UK.  

Re-importation of new lineages of SARS-CoV-2 via travel was also responsible for the second wave of infection in Scotland 

Research on the plasticity of SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain – we realised that this meant that the virus could adapt under pressure, heralding the new variants that came later.  

The effect of D614G spike mutation on transmission rates (higher) and clinical outcomes (no impact)  

Development of tools based on sequence data generated from COG-UK to allow virologists to investigate the virus in vitro 

A collaboration between the Oxford vaccine team and COG-UK investigated the efficacy of the ChAdOx1 vaccine against the B.1.1.7 new variant that was first found in SE England  

The bioinformatics team have developed new tools for analysing sequence data as part of COG-UK, including the COG-UK / Mutation Explorer and CoV-GLUE 

Emma Thomson and David Robertson have contributed to several SAGE reports for the government, including reports on hospital outbreaks and on travel-related importations.  

Other types of deep analysis we have contributed to with other COG-UK investigators have included: 

SARS-CoV-2 within-host diversity and transmission 

Development of a tool for the detection and quantification of SARS-CoV-2 sub-genomic RNA