BENGALURU: The Genomic Surveillance Committee, formed by the State Government recently, has come up with an action plan to scale up genomic sequencing by training laboratory staff through online and on-ground training.
The plan follows a recent announcement by Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar that seven genome sequencing labs would be set up at five government medical colleges, Wenlock Hospital in Mangaluru and Vijaypura district hospital.
“The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms(C-Camp), IBAB and IT-BT Department, with the support of Strand-HCG Hospital, IISc and NCBS, will train the laboratory staff online on and on the ground as to how to carry out genomic surveillance,” said Dr Vishal Rao, a member of the State’s Genomic Surveillance Committee and Regional Director -- Head and Neck Surgical Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre.
Genomic sequencing of positive samples started in the State this year after the UK variant was found and a total of 127 tested positive. Later, the South African variant surfaced with six infections. Now, the Delta and Kappa Indian variants have infected 318 and 112 people in the State.
Committee officials said the technology and staff are needed to be ramped up to carry out better genomic surveillance.
“We have so far conducted genome sequencing of 350-400 samples in the past few months in the State. Ideally, we should have done at least double that. We need to scale up technology and conduct at least 1,000 sample tests a week. This is the only way we can keep a clinical track of the variants,” Dr Rao added.
One of the committee members pointed out that it will take at least three to four months for medical colleges to start genomic surveillance. Merging of existing capabilities of IISc and Strand Life Sciences Pvt Ltd will play a key role, he added.
The committee is also planning to follow the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), which has set up a Covid tracker dashboard, to make genome sequencing and analyses freely available to all primary healthcare centres.
Dr Rao said that it is imperative to rely on machine learning models and AI algorithms to execute genomic surveillance efficiently.
Dr Vijay Chandru, Lancet Commissioner and a member of Genomic Surveillance Committee, said, “It is time for us to bring the best-in-class capabilities in the country to drive better genomic surveillance. The public effort driven by INSACOG has laid a foundation, but we now need to scale it up and have real-time dashboards to enable early warning signals to manage the next wave.”