Large genome project tackles pandemic

COVID-19 has been added to the list of health threats addressed in a major international research project. The 1+Million Genomes Initiative (1+MG) is a joint effort by 23 European countries. As indicated by the project title, researchers across the participating countries are to sequence more than one million human genomes. This before the end of 2022. The resulting data pool will allow scientists to identify patterns which link specific illnesses to specific genetic factors.

Genome sequencing involves large datasets, and only through the emergence of supercomputers has this field become operational. Therefore, the pan-European project requires both extensive computing power, and matching capacity for data storage.

Opening borders for data sharing

Elaborate mechanisms need to be in place, allowing researchers to share data across national borders and across institutions.
“The EU 1 + Million Genomes initiative is a key driver for the development of technologies for secure management and processing of sensitive data for health use cases. In 1+MG, leading solutions emerging from e.g. national genome centers and EU framework projects can be brought for the signatory member state decision making in a coordinated and open way,” says Tommi Nyrönen, program director at the Finnish national research and education network CSC.
CSC co-leads the work package on secure cross-border technical infrastructure.

From knowledge to clinical practise

The work package on technical infrastructure collects information across use cases, as for rare diseases, cancer, polygenic diseases, and pathogens – with COVID-19 now included in the latter group.

The overall ambition in the 1+MG is to obtain new knowledge, which will improve disease prevention and allow more personalized treatments and provide a sufficient scale for innovative, clinically impactful research.

Published: 04/2021

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