McGill and Genome Canada announce new Canadian SARS-CoV-2 Data Portal

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The development and implementation of the new Canadian SARS-CoV-2 Data Portal will be led by McGill University’s Dr. Guillaume Bourque, Professor in the Department of Human Genetics, and Director, Canadian Center for Computational Genomics. The Data Portal will manage and facilitate data sharing of anonymous viral genome sequences among Canadian public health labs, researchers and other groups interested in accessing the data for research and innovation purposes.

Bourque and his team will oversee technical interactions with the National Microbiology Lab and provincial public health labs across the country, under the guidance of world leading genomicists specializing in data science and policy, including Drs. Fiona Brinkman (Simon Fraser University), William Hsiao (Simon Fraser University), Lincoln Stein (Ontario Institute for Cancer Research) and Yann Joly (McGill University).

The announcement follows a rapid funding opportunity launched last month by the Genome Canada-led Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) that will directly support the Government of Canada Variants of Concern Strategy. CanCOGeN’s VirusSeq initiative is working with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the National Microbiology Laboratory, Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and other provincial and territorial partners to support the strategy and quickly scale up genomic sequencing and research efforts to detect new variants, increase real-time data sharing capacity, and inform appropriate public health and policy responses.

Streamlining access to benefit Canadians and rest of the world

“Much of the world’s progress to date in the fight against COVID-19 was enabled by rapid data sharing”, says Bourque. “With this support from CanCOGeN, we will build a data portal for all Canadian SARS-CoV-2 sequences and associated metadata. This made-in-Canada open science solution will streamline access for the scientific community, public health officials and other stakeholders to critical national datasets, empowering decisions and enabling discoveries that will benefit Canada and the rest of the world.”

Dr. Bourque’s team will work with industry partner DNAstack, leveraging its COVID Cloud platform, to develop and provide real-time analytical dashboards, data exploration and standards-compliant data interfaces. Collaboration with DNAstack will provide a complementary overall solution that best meets the needs of different stakeholders in Canada.

“Led by Dr. Guillaume Bourque, one of McGill’s most innovative and collaborative researchers, the development of the Canadian SARS-CoV-2 Data Portal is a crucial step toward curbing this pandemic and helping Canada be better prepared for the public health challenges on the horizon,” said Dr. Philippe Gros, Deputy Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation. ‎“First envisioned by McGill researchers nearly a year ago, it is wonderful to see this national resource become a reality. Our University is committed to working together with Genome Canada as well as with provincial and federal partners to harness the power of genomics and advanced data solutions for the benefit of scientific and global communities.”

Genome Canada, in its role as lead on CanCOGeN, will act as a data custodian with overall responsibility for and oversight of the data within the Canadian SARS-CoV-2 Data Portal.

“Today’s announcement represents a significant step forward for the Canadian research response to COVID-19,” said Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO of Genome Canada. “As a key partner in the Variants of Concern Strategy, Genome Canada is proud to introduce a SARS-CoV-2 Data Portal that will ensure Canadian oversight and access to viral genome data, allowing the research community to quickly mine this data and continue contributing to national and international surveillance and public health decision-making.”




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