Talking Techniques


COG-UK: sequencing SARS-CoV-2 and detecting the novel variant B.1.1.7

Season 2, Ep. 2

This episode, supported by Tecan, takes a look at the role the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) has played sequencing SARS-CoV-2 and surveying for COVID-19. To do this I speak to two key members of the consortium; Steve Paterson, Professor of genetics at the University of Liverpool and lead for the wastewater working group of COG-UK; and Josh Quick, Future Leaders Fellow at the University of Birmingham and lead at the COG-UK Sequencing working group.

Steve discusses some of the techniques required to detect SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, the challenges that such a vibrant sample can present, and gives his account of the part that wastewater surveillance played in the management of the new variant B.1.1.7.

Josh provides us with further insight into the technologies used to sequence SARS-CoV-2, explains how he designed the ARTIC protocol for sequencing the virus and why it came to be so widely used. We go on to discuss the issues of limited lab consumables such as pipette tips and how you can make the most out of your limited lab supplies. Josh also describes the bizarre act of serendipity that aided in the discovery of the B.1.1.7 variant.


  • Introduction: 00:00-01:30
  • Steve Paterson introduction: 01:30-02:15
  • Introducing COG-UK: 02:15-03:20
  • Becoming the wastewater working group lead: 03:20-04:35
  • Key techniques and essential work in wastewater surveillance: 04:35-08:00
  • Improving the sensitivity of sequencing and technological developments: 08:00-10:00
  • Detecting new variants in wastewater screening: 10:00-12:15
  • Learnings from the pandemic: 12:15-13:40
  • Josh Quick introduction: 14:35-15:32
  • The ARTIC protocol: 15:32-18:35
  • Sequencing working group key techniques and key focuses 18:35-22:00
  • Challenges of limited consumable supply and how to make the most of what you have got 22:00-24:30
  • Learnings from the pandemic: 24:30-26:28
  • New technologies, RC-PCR: 26:28-29:38
  • Fantasy technology to assist with SARS-CoV-2 sequencing: 29:38-31:00
  • Discovering the new variant B.1.17:31:00-33:30
  • Conclusions: 33:30-34:40

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