Lab genomics equipment carrying out tests

UK to offer genomics expertise to identify new Covid-19 variants

As part of the global effort to combat Covid-19, the UK is set to offer its world-leading genomics expertise to countries without the same capabilities and resources in order to help identify new variants of the virus.

Announced as part of a speech by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, countries will be offered UK capacity to analyse new strains of the virus through the launch of the New Variant Assessment Platform, which is set to be led by Public Health England (PHE), working with NHS Test and Trace and academic partners, as well as the World Health Organisation’s SARS-CoV-2 Global Laboratory Working Group.

In due course, the platform will be led by the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) and will involve PHE laboratories and staff, as well as academic partner capabilities.

They will work directly on samples provided from abroad, or will provide expert advice and remote support where the partner country already has some capabilities in genomics but requests further assistance.

The offer could also include training and resources, as well as personnel and equipment.

Countries will be able to apply for assistance by contacting the World Health Organisation, where an existing channel with the UK does not yet exist.

With vaccine delivery underway and a greater scientific understanding of the main Covid-19 strain, variants and mutations of the virus present the new unknown. As such, swiftly identifying any which may develop and present themselves around the world is vital to keep the global medical community one step ahead.

Mr Hancock said: “This pandemic has shown that the foundations of so many of the exciting experiences that make life worth living are contingent not just on our health, or the health of our neighbours, but the health of people across the world.

“The new variants of coronavirus have demonstrated this once again so we must work to promote health security right across the world.

“Our New Variant Assessment Platform will help us better understand this virus and how it spreads and will also boost global capacity to understand coronavirus so we’re all better prepared for whatever lies ahead.”

The UK has carried out more than half of all SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences submitted to the global database, and this capability helped PHE’s scientists identify the variant in Kent, informing new measures to tackle the spread of the virus.

Dr Isabel Oliver, Director of Public Health England’s National Infection Service, added: “We know that the virus will evolve over time and certain mutations could potentially cause the virus to spread faster, make people sicker, or possibly affect how well vaccines work.

“Genomic testing is crucial to our efforts to control the virus – it allows us to keep an eye on how the virus is changing and to respond before it’s too late.

“This new initiative will bring Public Health England’s cutting-edge science to countries that have little or no ability to sequence and analyse Covid-19 virus strains themselves. It will also give us crucial early warning of new variants emerging around the world that might endanger the UK.”

NHE Sept/Oct 21

NHE Sept/Oct 21

Improving care for long-term conditions

Join us in our September/October edition of National Health Executive, as we explore a range of topics impacting and improving the care that we can deliver to patients, the facilities within which we deliver them, and the opportunities in the digital space to accent and evolve our care capabilities


View all videos
National Health Executive Presents

National Health Executive Presents

NHE365 Virtual Festival: Digital Healthcare

The integration of new technology, such as using virtual outpatient appointments instead of face-to-face reviews of patients in the hospital. Adapting the ways in which our NHS workers serve people has been critical in continuing to provide high-quality treatment, a positive patient experience and preventing Covid-19 transmission during the pandemic. Our healthcare sector has the potential to transform the way we continue to provide essential services while also improving patient care. But how easy is the integration of these innovations into routine NHS practice?

On the 28th of October, at the NHE365 Virtual Hospitals & Technology Enabled Care online event, we will be discussing patient flow and experience, reducing waiting times, reducing the patient backlog and increasing technology adoption. Will you be attending? 

Finger on the Pulse

Ep 14. Health messaging is a science, Professor Craig Jackson

On Episode 14 of NHE's Finger on the Pulse podcast, we're joined by Professor Craig Jackson, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology
Birmingham City University to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, the health messaging around it and how those in power have missed a trick by overlooking the key role of psychology in informing the public of restrictions, measures and the ever-changing situation

More articles...

View all