UNO bioinformatics lab monitoring spread of coronavirus

Posted at 6:22 PM, Mar 05, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Researchers in the bioinformatics lab at the University of Nebraska-Omaha are tracking the coronavirus and its continued spread worldwide.

"We use computational resources to look at this type of data," said Dr. Kate Cooper, an associate producer of bioinformatics at UNO. "What we do is we write programs, create databases to store genetic data to analyze it, to make inferences that we can use for impacting clinical outcomes. The ultimate goal is to improve human health."

"We take the data from the individual experiments, we aggregate the data and we do large-scare analysis on it," said Kirk Gasper, a graduate student in the UNO bioinformatics program.

Dr. Cooper has studied multiple diseases. She said the coronavirus isn't out of the ordinary data-wise.

"Looking at it from a bioinformatics perspective, it is a normal run of the mill virus," Cooper said. "My concern isn't the virus itself, it's the stress that it could put on our health infrastructure."

Researchers are also using Twitter to share their information and help others find a cure faster.

"You're trying to get your research out as quickly as possible and they're advertising it on Twitter and engaging in discussion," Cooper said.

"It's a very useful central resource as scientists to get new information," Gasper said.

The UNO bioinformatics lab isn't running the coronavirus research, the lab is strictly monitoring national data. However, Dr. Cooper believes tracking the data, it's genetic makeup and understanding how the virus spreads are important steps in understanding the coronavirus.

"They're trying to predict how many cases we'll have but they're doing it in real time in response to the emergency," Cooper said.

Information on the coronavirus is updating daily. Dr. Cooper said her team is continually monitoring its spread and teaching students how to interpret the ever-changing data.

Watch reporter Phil Bergman's story in the above video.

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