Coronavirus research combines forces
How does the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) change its genetic information? What other infections occur in patients with COVID-19? Are there genetic risk factors that favor an infection? Numerous genome researchers are pooling their expertise and sequencing infrastructure to make a scientific contribution to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. These activities are now officially combined in the German COVID-19 OMICS Initiative (DeCOI) to accelerate research. Scientists at more than 22 institutions are actively involved in DeCOI including the TU Dresden and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden.
The genome of SARS-CoV-2 is now being sequenced in many parts of the world in order to characterize changes in the genetic information of the virus. The more such viral genomes are sequenced, the better scientists can understand the variation of the virus. By analyzing the kinship structure of individual viruses, conclusions can be drawn about their origin and about different forms of the virus in the population.
In Saxony, the Center for Regenerative Therapies (CRTD) at the TU Dresden and the DRESDEN-concept Genome Center – a facility jointly operated by the TU Dresden and the MPI-CBG - have joined the DeCOI initiative. "We bring in our know-how in the rather young discipline of single-cell sequencing. This provides very promising insights into the complex processes taking place in the bodies of patients. We are investigating which immune cells are involved in processes that occur particularly in patients with severe disease in order to identify new therapeutic options," says Prof. Ezio Bonifacio, who leads a research group at the CRTD and who is speaker within DeCOI for the TU Dresden, the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden, the medical faculty, and the CoViD-19 genomic work brought into the initiative by the MPI-CBG.
To understand COVID-19 and its propagation, as many SARS-CoV-2 genomes as possible need to be sequenced and accessible for researchers. Therefore, the protocols for sequencing SARS-CoV-2 are to be standardized at all major sequencing centers in Germany.
"By broadly sequencing the virus, we are monitoring possible changes in the virus genome over time and region, as well as visualize its spread. This information will help understand which measures were most effective in containing the pandemic," explains Dr. Andreas Dahl, head of the DRESDEN-concept Genome Center. This facility offers a wide range of state-of-the-art genomics technologies and a strong expertise in assay development, next generation / single cell sequencing and bioinformatics.
The members of the German COVID-19 OMICS Initiative (DeCOI) are:
Robert Bals (Universität des Saarlandes), Ezio Bonifacio (TU Dresden), Maria Colome-Tatche (Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt/HMGU), Andreas Diefenbach (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin), Alex Dilthey (Universitätsklinik Düsseldorf), Nicole Fischer (Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf), Konrad Förstner (ZB MED – Informationszentrum Lebenswissenschaften), Julien Gagneur (TU München), Michael Hummel (Charité; German Biobank Node), Birte Kehr (Charité), Andreas Keller (Uni des Saarlandes), Sarah Kim-Hellmuth (TU München), Oliver Kohlbacher (Universitätsklinikum Tübingen), Ingo Kurth (RWTH Aachen), Markus Landthaler (Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin Berlin/MDC), Kerstin Ludwig (Universitätsklinikum Bonn/UKB), Alice McHardy (Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung Braunschweig), Christian Mertes (TU München), Markus Nöthen (UKB), Peter Nürnberg (Universität zu Köln), Uwe Ohler (MDC), Klaus Pfeffer (Uniklinik Düsseldorf), Nikolaus Rajewsky (MDC), Markus Ralser (Charité), Olaf Rieß (UK Tübingen), Stephan Ripke (Charité), Philip Rosenstiel (Universität Kiel), Joachim Schultze (Universität Bonn/DZNE), Oliver Stegle (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum), Fabian Theis (HMGU), Janne Vehreschild (Uni Köln), Max von Kleist (Robert Koch-Institut), Jörn Walter (Uni des Saarlandes) und Dagmar Wieczorek (Uniklinik Düsseldorf).
About the DRESDEN-concept Genome Center (DCGC)
The DCGC is a joint sequencing center between the Technische Universität Dresden and the MPI-CBG. It is one of four DFG-funded German competence centers for next generation sequencing. The cooperative project is an amalgamation of employees of the TU Dresden and MPI-CBG, as well as of the CSBD, and the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD). The center consists of three platforms focusing on long read sequencing technologies, single cell sequencing, and short read sequencing.