February, 2021

SNPnexus: A valuable tool in the fight against COVID-19

Researchers from Barts Cancer Institute (BCI), Queen Mary University of London, have released a web-based tool called SNPnexus COVID (https://www.snp-nexus.org/v4/covid/) to streamline the analysis of host genetic sequencing data and allow for the identification and prioritisation of genetic variants that may impact an individual’s susceptibility to and the severity of COVID-19 infection.

Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, global initiatives to sequence the genomes of patients infected with the virus have driven an expanding new field of host genomics research. Analysing these sequencing data within a clinically relevant turnaround time is imperative given the urgency of research efforts to understand the biology of COVID-19 disease.

In response to this and with support from Barts Charity, the Bioinformatics Team at BCI, led by Professor Claude Chelala, have developed SNPnexus COVID, a web-based variant annotation tool designed to facilitate the study of genomes of COVID-19 patients. The cutting-edge analytical platform allows researchers to analyse and interpret the functional implications of genetic variants in COVID-19 patient genomes and to prioritise those that demonstrate clinical utility for the prevention, management and/or treatment of COVID-19.

Fiona Miller Smith, Barts Charity Chief Executive, said:

“This is an incredible tool that, while grounded in the work of the team right here in east London, has the potential for truly global reach and impact. We are proud to fund this work and recognise the potential it has to contribute to the fight against life-threatening and life limiting diseases such as COVID-19 and cancer.”

Professor Chelala said:

“I am grateful to Barts Charity and Queen Mary for the generous support to customise SNPnexus to ensure sequencing data from patients can be easily analysed to maximise research output. Thinking about the huge scope of possibilities SNPnexus could provide to support COVID-19 research is actually very exciting. SNPnexus COVID brought together key members of my team: first authors of the study Dr Jorge Oscanoa (software engineer) and Miss Lavanya Sivapalan (PhD student) with Dr Emanuela Gadaleta (Bioinformatician) and Dr Maryam Abdollahyan (data scientist).”