Hyderabad: A consortium of four cities – Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi, and Pune – has been established to upscale SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus genomic surveillance, complementing the national efforts led by INSACOG.

The consortium is led by CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB), Hyderabad, and currently includes different partners in three other cities: NCBS-TIFR, InStem-DBT, and NIMHANS in Bengaluru; CSIR-IGIB in New Delhi; Pune Knowledge Cluster, IISER-Pune, and CSIR-NCL in Pune. It will work closely with local governments, hospitals, and clinicians. In collaboration with INSACOG, the consortium aims to eventually make this a national effort by expanding to other strategic locations in India.

Dr. Rakesh Mishra, advisor at CSIR-CCMB, will lead these efforts along with Prof. Satyajit Mayor of NCBS, Prof. L.S Shashidhara of Pune Knowledge Cluster, and Dr. Anurag Agrawal of CSIR-IGIB. The team said its aim is to develop strategies and capabilities to identify Variants of Concern before they spread widely and cause outbreaks. This will also help correlate with clinical symptoms and disease severity, potentially associated with emerging variants, it said.

The consortium is established with support and funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. It will track the emergence of viral variants correlated to epidemiological dynamics and clinical outcomes. The consortium aims to develop targeted sampling strategies based on granular epidemiological and clinical data. Coupled with intense environmental surveillance and advanced computational techniques, the consortium would also focus on building capabilities for real-time surveillance and epidemiology.

Dr. Vinay Nandicoori, the director of CSIR-CCMB added, "All the partner institutes have been fighting COVID-19 since its very beginning in the country. This much-needed collaboration will bring all their strengths together in a structured fashion."

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