SIU Professors Tracking COVID-19 genomes through population

Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 5:04 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, IL. (KFVS) - Southern Illinois University Professor, Keith Gagnon, has partnered with SIU Computer Science Professor, Koushik Sinha, to find out what’s really happening with COVID-19 inside the body. Along with student researchers, they are tracking COVID-19 genomes through population.

The Illinois Department of Public Health provides the samples, the rest of the work is done on campus at SIU.

“We extract the genome. We sequence it and then, from that point on, we can compare its genome. These genomes, from different samples, to the genomes of other SARS, COVID-2 viruses that have been sequenced.”

Once researchers have that information, it’ll make it easier to understand how the virus is transmitted to different people.

“Where the virus comes from, potentially what kind of transmission were getting. ‘Is it local community transmission or did the virus maybe originate somewhere outside the country?’ for example.”

Gagnon said this is where his colleague Sinha comes into help. “He’s taking our genomic data, our genomic epidemiology data and interfacing it and layering it over with google mobility data. The demographics and a lot of other public data that is available. So we can get a better understanding of the pandemic as a whole.”

Gagnon said a grant is helping fund this research. “From SIU Carbondale and the school of medicine directly and then we have a new partnership collaboration with a group called ‘Open Commons Consortium Chicago.’ And that is part of a bigger initiative called the ‘Chicago Can’ initiative. The funding from that comes from and is supportive by the Walder Foundation.”

The goal of all of this? Gagnon said is simple, “how can we help inform public health policies?”

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