The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis. Insights into why some people develop more severe symptoms than others and how to better treat the disease are desperately needed. The COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative (https://www.covid19hg.org/) was created to study the relationship between variation in the human genome and SARS-CoV-2 infection. This is an ongoing, international, collaborative effort to learn the genetic determinants of COVID-19 susceptibility, severity, and outcomes. Andrea Ganna, PhD, EMBL-group leader at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland and an instructor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, presented the results of the Initiative’s first genome-wide association studies and follow-up analyses at the American Society of Human Genetics 2020 Virtual Meeting. The COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative (HGI) was formed in March 2020 as a way to bring together the international human genetics community to generate, share, and analyze data related to COVID-19 infection and outcomes. The decentralized Initiative has three main goals: (1) to provide an environment to foster resource-sharing to facilitate COVID-19 host genetics research; (2) to organize analytical activities across studies to identify genetic determinants of COVID-19 susceptibility, severity, and outcomes; and (3) to provide a platform to share results, as well as individual-level data, from such studies. By June 2020, the HGI included 190 studies from 46 countries and more than 1,100 researchers. “Our biggest accomplishment so far is bringing this community together,” says Dr. Ganna. “One of our strengths is the inclusion of researchers from countries that are underrepresented in large genetic consortia, such as Qatar and Brazil.” Collaboration is essential for battling a global pandemic, says Dr. Ganna.
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