WINNIPEG -- New research out of the Prairies will be producing genomic data to help inform public health decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sept. 29, Genome Prairie announced the launch of its Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) research projects, which will take place in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

CanCOGeN, which was first announced in April 2020, is a $40-million network involving federal, provincial, and regional public health authorities, as well as academia and industry. The goal of the network is to coordinate and fund coronavirus and host genome sequencing efforts and to share and analyze the data.

“Genome Prairie is proud to launch today, our two regional CanCOGeN projects: one in the Cadham Provincial Lab in Winnipeg and one in the Roy Romanow Provincial Lab in Regina,” said Gerry Brown, interim president and CEO of Genome Prairie.

“Both these invaluable projects have the capability to have a rapid and material impact on evolving COVID-related challenges.”

The two projects are called the Virus Genome Sequencing Project (VirusSeq) and the Host

Genome Sequencing Project (HostSeq).

VirusSeq will focus on large-scale whole-genome sequencing, identifying genetic mutations and variations. This data will help with COVID-19 surveillance, contact tracing, tracking, dispersal, and management.

HostSeq involves whole genome sequencing of infected people in order to understand the clinical responses to infection, which range from mild discomfort to serious respiratory complications.

“It is with no doubt that as we continue to fight against COVID-19, Genome Prairie’s expertise and leadership is needed to help us resolve and better understand the many COVID-19-related challenges we are faced with today,” said MP Terry Duguid.

Duguid added these projects “will gather scientific data to help better protect Canadians from this virus.”

Genome Prairie is also working on its COV3R project, which is looking at the issue of detecting co-infections and providing new tools for public health.