INSACOG directed to approve four genome sequencing labs

Nearly six months after Karnataka proposed to set up six genome sequencing labs in the State, the Union Health Ministry has written to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG) to approve four labs in government medical colleges in Kalaburagi, Mysuru, Belagavi, and Bengaluru.

Sources said Union Additional Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) Arti Ahuja on Tuesday wrote to the Department of Biotechnology, under which INSACOG has been set up, to expeditiously approve the four labs in Karnataka.

During the peak of the second wave in June, the State Government had proposed to set up six genome sequencing labs in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Shivamogga, Hubballi, Mangaluru, and Vijayapura. However, the process of seeking approval began only recently following the growing concern over Omicron. The need for seeking approval became all the more important following a recent communication from the Centre to Karnataka stating that genome sequencing can be conducted only in labs approved by INSACOG.

Sources in the State Health Department said the proposal had been lying in cold storage as “the COVID-19 situation was under control till two weeks ago.” “While the proposal was announced in June, nothing was being done till recently except procuring the equipment. But setting up the labs is not just about buying equipment. We need trained personnel including technicians, scientists and data entry operators to run the labs and that is a major requirement,” sources said.

T.K. Anil Kumar, State Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare), told The Hindu on Tuesday that equipment for the four labs in Kalaburgi Institute of Medical Sciences, Mysore Medical College, Belagavi Institute of Medical Sciences, and the Bowring and Lady Curzon Medical College and Research Institute has been installed.

“We are hopeful of getting the approval soon and these labs will start receiving samples by next week,” he said.

Although only two labs in Karnataka - at National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and NIMHANS - are INSACOG approved labs, two other government centres are involved in whole genome sequencing.

“We have one lab at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) that is attached to NIMHANS and another at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) that is attached to NCBS. While the load on these labs is not very high as of now, it is expected to increase as there is a need to test random RT-PCR positive samples from among clusters and among the fully vaccinated and children,” said V. Ravi, nodal officer for genomic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in Karnataka.

U.S. Vishal Rao, member of the State’s Genomic Surveillance Committee, said setting up more genome sequencing labs will be an asset for the State as genomics will have a pivotal role to play both in detection of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 12:17:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/insacog-directed-to-approve-four-genome-sequencing-labs/article37890618.ece

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