By Ian Gormely

A group of researchers, including Vector Faculty Member Bo Wang, have developed the COVID-19 Genotyping Tool (CGT), which tracks the viral genome evolution of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Their work was published in the Lancet.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, mutates as it moves between people. By tracking this evolution, researchers can gain a better picture of the pandemic’s history — where transmission likely occurred, where and when outbreaks happened, and most importantly, how the virus has evolved.

Understanding viral evolution has direct implications for vaccine design, drug development, and our efforts to control the pandemic.

Co-developed with Wang’s PhD student Hassaan Maan and researchers at McMaster University and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, CGT offers a user-friendly AI-enabled web app that allows researchers to gain insights into the history and outlook of the COVID-19 pandemic. It allows researchers to not only analyze publicly available viral genomes but also securely upload in-house viral genome sequencing data, which can be reprocessed for comparison with public data.

“In doing so,” says Wang, who is also AI Lead at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and a Canada CIFAR AI Chair, “they can determine the context of local events with respect to the global picture, and help shape local health policy and alert the community to any key changes in viral evolution.”

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