Dr Nick Loman

Dr Nick Loman, of the School of Biosciences and Institute of Microbiology and Infection, has been successful in his recent application for funding to the Zika Rapid Response initiative with a proposal for "Open genomic surveillance of Zika virus (ZIKV) in Brazil using a novel portable real-time sequencing device" which Dr Loman describes as "a Zika lab in a caravan". 

The Zika Rapid Response initiative was launched by the Medical research Council (MRC) aimed at tackling the risk posed by the Zika virus. Dr Loman and his fellow researchers recently established real-time portable genome sequencing using the Oxford Nanopore MinION device, and successfully used this to characterize Ebola virus genetic diversity in Guinea during the 2014-2015 outbreak. In applying to the Rapid Response, Dr Loman proposed to extend this ground-breaking achievement to ZIKV by establishing two portable genome sequencing laboratories in Brazil. Through collaboration with the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ) and the Instituto Evandro Chagas public health laboratory in Brazil he will sequence 750 complete genomes of ZIKV, covering a broad geographical region including historical samples, and from patients with a range of clinical presentations. 

Dr Loman explains that, "Crucially these data will provide a surveillance framework for tracking further spread into other geographic regions. In common with our previous efforts, this effort will serve as a beacon for open science during a public health emergency." 

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