COVID-19 initiatives by Génome Québec


Harnessing genomics to win the battle against COVID-19

As early as April 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Génome Québec took decisive action to support the Québec government and researchers in the fight against the coronavirus that was just taking shape.


With the collaboration of key players from the Québec and Canadian health and science research community, and leveraging the expertise of its teams and cutting-edge technology, Génome Québec has contributed to major genomics initiatives to address COVID-19, for example, by:

- Funding COVID-19 genomics projects

- Actively participating in the CanCOGeN network

- Developing the Biobanque québécoise de la COVID-19

- Mobilizing the Génome Québec and CIUSSS du Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean Biobank

- Launching a call for projects as mandated by the Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation


Every day, the results from these projects are helping to accelerate research, develop COVID-19 therapies and discover vaccine options.  Thanks to genomics, researchers and policy makers are better equipped to deal with any subsequent waves of COVID-19 as well as other types of viruses in the foreseeable future.


Biobanque québécoise de la COVID-19 (BQC19) and CanCOGeN HostSeq

Funding agencies: Public Health Agency of Canada ($7M), Fonds de recherche Santé Québec ($1.5M), Génome Québec ($1.5M)
Investigators: Vincent Mooser (McGill University) and Daniel Kaufmann (Université de Montréal)

To fight COVID-19, obtaining high-quality biological samples and medical data from infected patients is essential.

To this end, the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS) and Génome Québec have tasked a group of Québec researchers with setting up the Biobanque québécoise de la COVID-19 (BQC19), where these data can be stored.

The BQC19 provides the framework needed to share information and support researchers in the province, the country and around the world working on the prevention, treatment and epidemiological and population management of

One of the unique features of the BQC19 is its “decentralized” structure, meaning that the samples it contains are found and listed in 11 hospitals in Québec:

  • CIUSS de l’Estrie – CHUS
  • CIUSS du Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean
  • MUHC
  • CHUM
  • CHU de Québec
  • HMR
  • HSCM
  • Jewish General Hospital
  • Douglas Mental Health University Institute


To identify the genetic indicators that may predict the onset and severity of COVID-19 symptoms, the BQC19 will be analyzing three types of samples:

  1. Samples from patients with a severe case of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization and who have received a positive PCR test result for SARS-CoV-2 + 2 negative tests.
  2.  Samples from patients with a moderate case of COVID-19 who have received a positive PCR test result for SARS-CoV-2 + 2 negative tests.
  3.  Samples from patients with a mild or asymptomatic case of COVID-19. These individuals are recruited at the same time as those in group 1 and their SARS-CoV-2 infection is determined by serological testing.

Researchers are looking to collect and sequence a total of approximately 4,500 samples from human patients. As of September 3, 2020, 1,300 samples had been collected.

The biobank initiative is also associated with the CanCOGeN HostSeq, whose objective is to identify the genomic features that may account for the variability in disease severity by linking patients’ genomic data with their COVID-19 medical profile. To do so, HostSeq researchers are looking to sequence the genomes of up to 10,000 Canadians infected with SARS-CoV-2 and presenting a range of COVID-19 symptoms. They will be using a cohort-based approach, which involves obtaining samples from different research initiatives, such as the BQC19, which recruit their patients.

Conclusive data from the HostSeq project will help support the development of therapeutic strategies and COVID-19 vaccines.


Useful links
\\\GQ-Fichiers\Documents\GESTION DE PROJETS-COMMERCIALISATION\CONCOURS GC 2020 CanCOGen\CGEN-HostSeq Presentation 20200618.pptx

Overview of media coverage

Link between the CanCOGeN VirusSeq and HostSeq axes

To make the most of results from research conducted by both VirusSeq and HostSeq investigators, the CanCOGeN consortium has set up a coordinating committee to develop and support a strategy on data sharing.

Québec is well positioned in this respect thanks to the LSPQ and the BQC19, a federated structure.


The Génome Québec and CIUSSS Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean Biobank

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Génome Québec Biobank near Chicoutimi Hospital, has been storing tens of thousands of nasopharyngeal samples collected from people with COVID-19 at various hospitals in Québec. These virus samples are sent to the Génome Québec CES, where they will be sequenced as part of the CanCOGeN initiative.

The frozen samples stored at the Génome Québec Biobank help researchers across Canada better track and understand the evolution of the pandemic, which in turn provides the LSPQ with the information it needs to make recommendations to policy makers.

The availability of high-quality, well-organized human biological tissues collected early in the pandemic will serve as a long-term source of information for the Québec research community.


Overview of media coverage

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