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Punjab gets its first Whole Genome Sequencing Laboratory

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Patiala, 2 December, 2021 (Yes Punjab News)
Under the guidance of Hon’ble Chief Minister of Punjab S. Charanjit Singh Channi, the first state-run COVID-19 Whole Genome Sequencing (GWS) laboratory was inaugurated on 28th November 2021 by Dr. Avnish Kumar, Director, Department of Medical Education and Research, Punjab in the able presence of Dr. Harjinder Singh, Director Principal Govt. Medical College, Patiala.

Divulging the details Dr. Harjinder Singh said that the VRDL GMC Patiala laboratory, having been recognized by the Indian Council of Medical Research as one of the top five laboratories in India for COVID-19 RT PCR testing capabilities, has successfully processed around 313 genome sequencing samples till date.

Further, to expand the lab’s existing capability, a team of research assistants and microbiologists, including the lab in-charge, Dr Rupinder Bakshi, has been trained in conducting COVID-19 genome sequencing by a team of specialists from Genotypics, a Bangalore-based sequencing research hub.

The genome sequencer and supportive equipment have been donated by a US based not-for-profit organization, PATH as part of its on-going COVID-19 response support to the state, he added.

Director, Principal said that the lab is also a member of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) – a group of now 28 national laboratories that was established by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India for carrying out genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating COVID-19 viruses and correlating epidemiological trends with genomic variants.

Dr Rupinder Bakshi told that In the wake of uncertainties regarding the recently discovered Variant of Concern B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19, renamed as Omicron by the World Health Organization, the WGS facilities at the laboratory will aid Punjab in gearing up and recognizing such circulating strains of the virus within its population in order to devise appropriate and necessary containment measures and strategies.

Given that epidemics and pandemics may become more common in the future, such capabilities and surveillance will be crucial in pre-empting catastrophes and minimizing damage, she added.

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