UAE’s Biogenix Labs has received certification for the use of Oxford Nanopore sequencing technology to conduct SARS-CoV-2 sequencing for Covid-19 surveillance and variant detection.
Biogenix is the UAE’s first Covid-19-accredited large-scale testing laboratory and part of Abu Dhabi-based leading health tech company, G42 Healthcare.
With this, Biogenix Labs becomes a Certified Service Partner for Oxford Nanopore and the first lab in Middle East to be certified for providing cost-effective, high accuracy sequencing for genomic epidemiology for Covid-19 strain surveillance in RT-PCR positive cases with a quick turnaround time.
The protocol is highly scalable and can be deployed on Oxford Nanopore’s range of sequencers such as the MinION, GridION and PromethION depending on the sample volumes and turnaround time. This capacity and volume of samples sequenced at Biogenix Labs positions it as a preferred referral lab for Covid-19 epidemiology through genome sequencing.
The ARTIC Midnight protocol uses overlapping PCR amplified targets across the viral genome, giving the advantage of whole genome surveillance rather than focusing only on the gene that codes for the viral spike protein.
The barcoding capacity which ensures thousands of samples in a single sequencing run per instrument coupled with a rapid analysis pipeline post sequencing, makes the setup key in a pandemic situation, allowing scientists and healthcare workers to have up to date variant information for disease management.
Nanopore sequencing and ARTIC Midnight Kit can achieve higher coverage with a lower number of reads, producing less ambiguous base calls, and is affordable when compared to alternative approaches (reference).
Dr Fahed Al Marzooqi, Chief Operations Officer, G42 Healthcare, said: “As the UAE’s first Covid-19 accredited large-scale throughput testing laboratory, Biogenix Labs upholds the safety of communities and we have so far carried out more than 2.5 million RT PCR and saliva tests that have enabled safe return to work, seamless travel and helped children go back to school.”
He added: “The ARTIC Midnight Kit will allow us to deliver high-quality SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequencing faster, with more flexible workflows and cost optimisation. In the long term, Oxford Nanopore sequencing unlocks many possibilities for the analysis of other pathogens, microbial surveillance, and larger public health impact that we look forward to exploring.”
Set up in only 14 days to cater to the urgent scale-up for Covid-19 testing in early 2020, Biogenix Labs have played a crucial role in the 4Humanity Phase III inactivated vaccine trials and is a frontrunner in diagnostics and viral genome sequencing in the UAE and region. The laboratory has now extended its offerings to facilitate molecular and genomic diagnosis that will provide insights into rare disease treatments.
The role of genomic epidemiology is important in the successful control and prevention of the Covid-19 pandemic. Oxford Nanopore sequencing technology has been used in more than 100 countries around the world throughout the pandemic to enable precise tracking of pathogen evolution, provide detailed insights to inform pandemic decision-making and the management of future outbreaks.
Dr Gordon Sanghera, Chief Executive Officer, Oxford Nanopore commented: “It’s great to see nanopore sequencing being provided as a service by the G42 Healthcare’s Biogenix Labs to enable rapid scale up of their SARS-CoV-2 sequencing efforts. The team have already made a huge contribution to the pandemic response and this certification will enable them to continue to gain rapid insights to inform public health decision makers.”
The ARTIC Midnight Kit, enabled by Oxford Nanopore sequencing, promises rapid turnaround of tens to thousands of samples and the scalable nature of the technology has minimal hands-on time, facilitating automation and high throughput, thereby making it cost optimal. The ARTIC classic method has been used extensively to support public health through the pandemic.
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