Ignition Project team takes on rapid COVID-19 sequencing

19 August 2021

Back in 2017, before pandemics and lockdowns, the CBA awarded one of our Ignition Grants to a team of researchers from ANU and CSIRO for a project Uncovering the Hare Microbiome.

Little was known of hare microbial diversity and epidemiology, having implications for biocontrol programs of the closely related European rabbit, a significant environmental and agricultural pest in Australia. The small CBA grant was used to investigate the diversity of the hare microbiome using emerging long-read (Nanopore) sequencing technology.  

This new collaboration, kicked off by their Ignition Project, connects CSIRO’s viral expertise via Robyn Hall (Health & Biosecurity) with ANU’s advanced genomic sequencing know-how through Benjamin Schwessinger’s lab (Research School of Biology).

We were delighted to hear that these researchers, along with Ashley Jones and Emma Crean (ANU), have stepped up as the primary team sequencing ACT COVID-19 samples and comparing genomes from the Australian database to assist with contact tracing across Canberra. They are currently sequencing around 15-30 genomes a day for ACT Health.

What a timely, and very much appreciated, example of the value of cross-institutional collaboration. It is also highlights how new methods developed for fundamental research can be rapidly deployed to solve urgent real-world problems. Well done and thanks team!