CNR-IBIOM, State University of Milan and University of Bari: may help identify new variants
The State University of Milan is also involved in the study that provides a new tool in the fight against the Coronavirus. Researchers from the Institute of Biomembranes, Bioenergetics and Molecular Biotechnologies of the National Research Council (CNR-IBIOM) in Bari, the University Aldo Moro of Bari and the Department of Biosciences at the University of Milan have developed software to facilitate the analysis of the genome of the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes COVID-19.
The study was published in Bioinformatics in an article, in which it is specified that during the pandemic more than 400 thousand genomic sequences belonging to different strains of the virus (identified in different parts of the world) were sequenced and made available: a wealth of data which has also generated problems in terms of analysis, precisely because of the enormous amount of material available.
To meet this need, the authors of the study have developed CorGAT (Coronavirus Genome Analysis Tool), a tool with a user-friendly web interface that is accessible to the entire scientific community. To date, stresses Graziano Pesole of CNR-IBIOM, “CorGAT is probably the most up-to-date and accurate system to perform this type of analysis”, since “it has been developed to incorporate as much information as possible and integrates a number of original resources and systems for genome annotation”.
The Sars-Cov-2 variant issue
By applying CorGAT to more than 50 thousand genomic sequences, the study authors were able to outline the evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 and identify the regions of the genome that accumulate the most mutations.
The rapid identification of emerging virus strains or genetic variants potentially associated with new characteristics is one of the most important objectives of “genomic surveillance” - the study of the genome of pathogens - and applies, for example, to the identification and characterisation of so-called “new virus variants”, which have recently emerged strongly.
In short, CorGAT and similar tools, applied on a large scale, may facilitate the study of the possible effects of new variants in the SARS-CoV-2 genome, also indirectly contributing to the design of drugs and vaccines.
CorGAT is freely accessible via this link and is constantly being updated to offer increasingly more accurate and precise information. The tool was developed with the support of a cloud platform, Laniakea, made available by the Compute Platform of the Italian node of the European Research Infrastructure ELIXIR for Life Sciences, coordinated by the CNR under the responsibility of Pesole.