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Rapid Response to Emerging Serious Pathogen Outbreaks using Next-gen Data: R2ESPOND

COVID-19 Research Area(s): Diagnostics, Genomics & Transmission Dynamics, Epidemiology & Public Health

A new virus has been identified from Wuhan City in China from the coronavirus family (SARS-CoV-2), which is now responsible for more than 71,000 cases of illness (COVID-19 disease) in over 29 countries. Although there have not yet been any deaths in Canada, public health agencies are on high alert, as there is a real possibility of a serious epidemic. The WHO has declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern. As of February 14th, five COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in British Columbia and based on travel patterns there is every reason to expect additional cases in BC.

There are many unanswered questions regarding the virus, how it spreads and the disease that it causes. This information is needed for a data-driven response to this outbreak. We aim to use two types of next-generation data (next-gen genomics data and next-gen human data), along with a data integration tool called PLOVER 2.0, to answer these unknowns. The research team will 1)Carry out rapid genomic sequencing on patient samples to study the virus, how it spreads, how it evolves and predict which drugs will work 2) Develop knowledge of how the virus characteristics, along with a patient's previous health conditions, impact the severity of illness and how they recover from the illness 3)Develop a software tool (PLOVER 2.0) that will allow us to carry out this research and will also make the data viewable by key stakeholders such as Medical Health Officers. This work will not only generate critical knowledge about the SARS-CoV-2 virus but will also help develop a better understanding of health outcomes for infected patients. The knowledge generated and tools developed by this research can ensure an evidence-based and cohesive response to this public health emergency, here in Canada and internationally.