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The Power of Genomics to Understand the COVID-19 Pandemic

Gain insights into tracking, treating, preventing, and preparing for pandemics through genome sequencing and data sharing.

5,223 enrolled on this course

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  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    5 hours
  • Digital upgrade


See how viral genomics can improve the response to COVID-19 and future pandemics

Genomics is crucial in understanding and responding to pandemics, including COVID-19.

On this three-week course, you’ll learn key concepts in viral genomics, how they can be applied to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they can help us prepare for future pandemics.

Explore genome sequencing and the SARS-CoV-2 genome

The course starts with a review of how viruses cause diseases and pandemics, examining the factors that can lead to a public health emergency.

You’ll also get a comprehensive introduction to the SARS-CoV-2 genome structure, and learn how genome sequencing is used in COVID-19 surveillance.

Learn about COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics development

Once you’re comfortable with the basics of genome sequencing and the contributing factors of pandemics, you’ll move on to vaccines and therapeutics.

You will have an overview of the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines and the available treatments of the disease, and you’ll gain further insights into the impact of viral variants.

Understand why viral genomic surveillance is critical

You’ll see how sharing genomic sequencing helps experts understand disease epidemiology, allowing them to give better advice and to be more prepared for the future.

Ultimately, this course will show you how important genomics is for developing effective strategies, not only against the COVID-19 pandemic but, importantly, against pandemics in general.


  • Week 1

    Pandemics and their origins

    • Welcome to the course

      An introduction to this course, the COG-Train courses series, and what's to come ahead in the next three weeks.

    • Welcome to Week 1

      Welcome to our first week! In this activity, you will meet the Educators team and will get some important information about this course.

    • Viruses, outbreaks and pandemics

      This is an introduction to viruses and how the viral transmission can cause outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics

    • Genetic knowledge for pandemic action

      How does genetic information help experts understand viruses, how they spread, and how to fight them?

    • Pandemic Knowledge Sharing

      An overview about the ways that knowledge is shared and communicated during a pandemic

    • End of Week 1

      A summary of the course so far. How is your learning going? Apply what you have learned in a short quiz.

  • Week 2

    Viruses, Variants and Vaccines

    • Welcome to Week 2

      Welcome back! Have a look at the learning objectives for this week

    • Viruses and their mechanisms

      Overview on viral pathogenesis - the way in which viruses invade cells and replicate - and thus, cause disease.

    • Vaccines and Genomics

      How vaccines work, and what genomics knowledge is needed to make them.

    • Viral variants and their impact

      Introduction on how variants impact epidemiological surveillance

    • End of Week 2

      Assessment of your learning progress and key learning points

  • Week 3

    Epidemiology and Tracking in a pandemic

    • Welcome to Week 3

      The final topics of this course.

    • Epidemiology and surveillance

      In this activity, you will have an introduction to viral surveillance and epidemiology.

    • Lessons learned: What can be done better?

      What COVID-19 and previous pandemics have thought us and how can be better prepared for the next public health emergencies?

    • End of Week 3

      Check how much you have learned so far. Learn about our other courses and resources.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe how viruses cause diseases and pandemics
  • Discuss the use of sequence data for detecting and tracking the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants
  • Describe the development and action of vaccines and therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2
  • Evaluate the role of genomic epidemiology in pandemic decision-making
  • Explain how data sharing contributes to developing effective strategies against the pandemic

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in learning more about the genomics response to the current pandemic. While no prior knowledge about COVID-19 is required, it is likely to be most useful to researchers, healthcare professionals, science journalists, policymakers, and those working in public health.

Who will you learn with?

I am a lecturer in Genomic Medicine at the University of Exeter where I work on genotyping chip accuracy and rare cancer variant penetrance as well as being Scientific Lead for COG-Train

I'm a Trainee Clinical Scientist working in the UK.
I have an interest in Infection Sciences and the future of genomic technology.

I studied Medicine in Mexico City at the National University of Mexico and came in 2001 to London to do an MSc and PhD. I am the Virology clinical lead at Barts Health, one of the largest NHS Trusts.

I manage the communications and content management strategy for COG-Train. Previously I worked as post-doc sequencing SARS-CoV-2 at The Quadram Institute in Norwich (UK)

Who developed the course?

Wellcome Connecting Science

Wellcome Connecting Science develops and delivers open postgraduates courses and conferences focused on biomedicine.


COG-Train is an educational initiative developed jointly by the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium and Wellcome Connecting Science (WCS) to provide open-access learning in SARS-CoV-2 genomics.

What's included?

Wellcome Connecting Science are offering everyone who joins this course a free digital upgrade, so that you can experience the full benefits of studying online for free. This means that you get:

  • Unlimited access to this course
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • Tests to validate your learning
  • A PDF Certificate of Achievement to prove your success when you’re eligible
  • Learning on FutureLearn

    Your learning, your rules

    • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
    • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
    • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

    Join a global classroom

    • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
    • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
    • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

    Map your progress

    • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
    • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
    • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

    Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

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