In conversation with Dr.Guillaume Bourque on the COVID-19 Resources Platform

Compute Canada, and its regional partners, ACENET, Calcul Québec, Compute Ontario, and WestGrid, will be highlighting the work of Canadian researchers who are working tirelessly to develop solutions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. For our first spotlight in the series, we spoke to Dr.Guillaume Bourque, Professor, Department of Human Genetics, McGill University, and Director of Bioinformatics, McGill Genome Center. In collaboration with a group of volunteers, Dr. Borque has launched the COVID-19 Resources platform. An avid computational research, Dr. Guillaume Bourque has been using Compute Canada advanced research computing resources for his work. Users who want to access ARC resources can get in touch with support@computecanca.ca.

  • Can you tell us more about the COVID-19 Resources platform, how it can be used, and how it came about?

I was contacted by a colleague asking whether I could help them build an online tool to find and share reagents needed for COVID-19 research projects. Before building it, I decided to ask on Twitter if anybody was already working on something like that, and that’s how I ended up connecting with others and we decided to work on a portal to find reagents, but also volunteers and many other things.

  • How can people support the platform and collaborate to help combat this pandemic?

The platform is built on a crowdsourcing model. Now that it is in place, we need people to use it and add information themselves so that it becomes a really comprehensive resource.

  • This platform is a result of a collaboration between many Canadian researchers. Can you please tell us more about how everyone is working together on the initiatives listed on the website?

It really started on Twitter with a group of us, more than 20. We started to meet virtually using tools like Zoom and Slack and then quickly decided on the content and structure of the platform. Now we are getting submissions via online forms that we vet and then include on the website.

  • Are any of your users accessing advanced research computing (ARC) resources?

For some of the COVID-19 research projects, yes. For instance, I’m working in genomics, and we have projects that are just starting up where we will sequence both people infected and also the virus itself. Those projects will require significant compute resources for analysis. The reagent database that will soon be included on our COVID-19 Resources platform will also be hosted on a Virtual Machine at Calcul Quebec.

  • What is it that you need help with to make it a comprehensive resource database on COVID-19 related efforts in Canada?

We’re hoping that the community will join us and help us grow this network so that we can avoid duplicating efforts and centralize some of these resources.