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Health

SIU Researchers Contribute To Efforts To Understand Coronavirus

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The project focuses on mapping the RNA of the coronavirus.

Researchers at SIU are taking part in an effort to help further understand the novel coronavirus by sequencing it’s genome.

Associate professor Keith Gagnon heads the lab working on the project, which is mapping the RNA of the coronavirus in an effort to understand how the virus is changing. These changes can also help researchers understand how the virus has traveled from place to place, because different mutations may be more common in different areas of the world.

The research is part of the Chicago Coronavirus Assessment Network, funded by the Walder Foundation. Gagnon’s lab began working on the project at the start of the pandemic. It is the first time the lab has worked on a virus, with previous work focusing on Lou Gherig’s Disease and CRISPR.

“This project is designed to in the next several months sequence a few thousand genomes, hopefully,” said Gagnon, adding that several hundred samples have already been sequenced.

Gagnon says he hopes the results of his research can be used to help public health authorities fine-tune methods to control the virus, by giving them more information on how cases spread across geographic areas. He also hopes it will help vaccine developers by identifying parts of the virus that are more stable, and enabling them to make vaccinations that will continue to work even as the virus mutates.