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COVID-19 Variant Sequencing Statement

The non-Ministerial MLAs in the Alberta Legislature – or any Legislature for that matter – often find it difficult to express their thoughts about events which they feel are important to constituents. Question Period is one route to raise matters but ,no surprise here, that time is reserved for questions, not speeches.

So what is an MLA Supposed to do to raise topics that should be on the record and heard by members of the Legislature? Enter the Members’ Statement. A two-minute statement on subjects of international, national, regional, or local importance.

Genome Alberta was very pleased to hear MLA Whitney Issik (Calgary-Glenmore) rise in the Legislature on March 23rd to deliver a statement about the work being done in this province by Alberta Precision Laboratories, and by us as part of the Genome Canada led Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network.

Our thanks goes out to MLA Issik and to everyone at Alberta Precision Laboratories for helping researchers, public health officials, and clinicians monitor the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

Here is the statement as reported by Hansard, the official report of what was said in the Legislative Assembly.

" COVID19 Variant Sequencing

Ms Issik:

Mr. Speaker, not a day goes by when we do not hear about a variant of the virus which causes COVID-19. The task of finding and tracking those viruses and variants falls to researchers and lab specialists who’ve become virus detectives. With a million dollars in funding now flowing from Genome Alberta and Genome Canada, our Alberta viral detective agency is making a significant contribution to the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network.


All viruses mutate, and each time they do, they develop a unique genetic signature. Sometimes those mutations create a variant of concern; sometimes they are harmless. Without genetic sequencing information we would not be able to identify and track strains that pose new challenges for diagnosing and treating COVID-19.

Alberta Precision Laboratories is where COVID-19 samples from people who have tested positive end up. APL is responsible for the province-wide sequencing program and can detect all known variants and spot new ones. Kanti Pabbaraju is the scientist who leads the emerging pathogens and research section of the Public Health Laboratory. Her team spent all of Christmas Eve working through the night to find the first confirmed case of the B.1.1.7 variant in Alberta. I’d like to thank Kanti’s team for their work.

Sequencing results are used provincially to help researchers in public health understand how the virus is evolving. All provincial sequencing information is sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory to be included in the pan-Canadian monitoring effort and the international database for use by virus trackers around the world. APL is currently sequencing 27 per cent of the national total. That’s a feather in their cap for our lab team.
The funding for Genome Alberta and Genome Canada is not only ensuring we can meet the challenge of monitoring variants now but is being used to increase our provincial capacity to deal with future outbreaks of other viruses.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the genetic sequencing of the COVID-19 virus.

COVID-19 Variant Sequencing Statement

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