Genomics

UMass Med uses genomic sequencing to detect COVID-19 mutations


We know the highly transmissible U.K. variant of COVID-19 is here.

Now researchers at UMass Medical School are conducting genomic sequencing to determine the extent of this and other COVID variants in Central Massachusetts, an effort that could lead to more effective vaccines as well as a better understanding of the virus’ spread.

“There are two things about it,” said Dr. Richard T. Ellison III, an infectious disease specialist at UMass Medical School who is leading the research in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Broad Institute at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

Dr. Richard Ellison, infectious disease specialist at UMass Medical School.

“To better design a vaccine for next year, you have to know the variants,” Ellison continued. “And if you can sequence the virus and see if (two sequences) are related or not, you can do a better job of understanding how the variants are spread and do a better job of putting any restrictions in place.”

Ellison explained that COVID-19 is an RNA virus, and RNA viruses don’t do a very good job of making exact genetic copies of their RNA as they infect cells and reproduce.



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