Funding is lagging for the COVID19 open science research ¶
By: Jason E. Barkeloo on March 29, 2020, 3:03 p.m.
COVID-19 detectives are on the case but lack funds
Computational biologists behind Nextstrain seek support for global sequencing work
The COVID-19 virus has spread across the globe with breathtaking speed. But all along, an international team of computational biologists has been close behind.
The researchers behind Nextstrain.org, which was co-created by scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Basel, are using genetic clues to track the virus’ spread and evolution in near real-time. Their work is helping countries and policymakers develop strategies to monitor and control outbreaks to save lives.
But as fast as the science — and the virus — are moving, the financial resources needed to expand that global sequencing work have lagged.
“The epidemic doesn’t stop and wait for money to come in,” said Dr. Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at University of Basel and co-developer of Nextstrain.org. “But the way science works, it can be difficult if not impossible to take your existing research funds and use them for something new, no matter how important.”
Hodcroft said that labs with the equipment and expertise to perform whole-genome sequencing have reached out to the Nextstrain team, saying they want to contribute to this urgent effort — but they need funds for supplies.
That’s why Fred Hutch and Nextstrain.org are teaming up to raise $300,000 to bridge the gaps and expand the community of researchers sequencing COVID-19. The information gained from sequencing more samples of the virus won’t just strengthen Nextstrain, Hodcroft said; it will empower researchers everywhere to find creative ways to prevent the virus from spreading right now. And it will help scientists develop novel treatments over time.