The rapidly unfolding events in New York and globally, emphasize the need to quickly decode the host-pathogen biology of SARS-CoV-2 and the associated COVID-19 disease. Among the science proposed in the community is understanding the evolution of the viral genome and possible host genomic factors from the germline or immune response, which may explain pathophysiology of COVID-19. New York is fortunate to have many experts in each of the relevant areas at all institutions. We believe the best chance of rapid progress will come from pooling efforts and resources across centers. To assist with this effort, the New York Genome Center is proposing the establishment of a city-wide genomics-focused research network to bring the genomics capacity and expertise in conjunction with area research programs on COVID-19. We believe these efforts, if well-coordinated and described, will be in position to rapidly attract the resources needed to enact them.
NYGC is proposing the following initial areas of intramural/extramural scientific focus and network capacity, and we would welcome concrete proposals in additional areas:
To achieve progress in this critical research, we propose organizing a network of treatment and research sites in the New York area to share samples and data. Viral and germline samples from patients could be prepped at hospitals and sequenced in a distributed or centralized manner, and the data shared across all participating sites. This network would be open to any site seeing patients and any site with research capacity. We have already joined in a number of local efforts but joining together as one NYC/NJ-based COVID-19 research initiative would bring a strength in numbers and resources that we could all benefit from. A collective effort could quickly establish the optimal infrastructure required to do this effectively. There are many challenges of such an effort including identifying, recruiting and consenting interested participants, collecting and processing samples, rapid data analysis and data sharing. There are many people in New York with the necessary experience in organizing large studies to make this a success, several of whom have already begun to make progress on COVID-19 related research. I hope you will all agree with the importance of building this network and join. I would like to offer our help in organizing a centralized effort, we could be a site for sequencing and analysis, as well as provide help coordinating effective data sharing.
We are aware of a wide range of ongoing research at your institutions and hope to have the opportunity to work together. If there are other ongoing research projects, activities and ideas that would benefit from a concerted and cooperative research program, please connect them with us and/or bring them up at the meeting. If there is sufficient interest and enthusiasm for a city-wide effort, we can begin building the means of communication and coordination.
I look forward to hearing from all of you,
Tom Maniatis, PhD
Scientific Director and CEO
New York Genome Center