Data analysis has never been more relevant, as the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 has made evident – but genomic data is incredibly difficult to navigate. Now, bioinformaticians from the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG), part of ELIXIR Spain, have developed a platform that fills in the gaps in the SARS-CoV-2 ocean of data— the COVID-19 Viral Beacon.
The platform presents a one-stop-shop with a friendly interface in which to analyse raw and consensus COVID-19 genetic data from several datasets, searching for specific genetic variants and exploring the associated metadata. For instance, it can filter viral strains from a particular geographic region, or discover variants that could account for individual differences in the immune response.
‘The platform is readily accessible to search SARS-CoV-2 genomic information quickly, even via mobile phones’
Jordi Rambla, Team Leader of EGA at the CRG.
CRG’s Viral Beacon utilises the GA4GH Beacon API, which was initially created to discover human Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP) and sharing genomic data in biomedical research without compromising privacy.
A few months back, the CRG scientists modified and extended the architecture and functionality of this tool for SARS-CoV-2 data discovery. The ELIXIR Spain Node started compiling data from public sequence data through dedicated pipelines (read the Galaxy paper for more details).
Babita Singh, part of the EGA Team at the CRG, said: ‘Now we seek additional collaborations with experts in the field to help us extend the functionalities of this tool to make Beacon a quick go-to genomic variants search tool for COVID and other infectious diseases. In the future, our goal is also to include human genomic variants information to study the interplay between human and virus genomics.’