As the Delta variant’s high transmissibility presents a challenge to public health across the globe, we’re working to accurately track, report, and understand its sequencing in order to provide health guidance in line with the most up-to-date information.
Curative, and our new next-generation sequencing (NGS) lab in Monrovia, California, is poised and ready to take on that challenge. Today, we hear from Jean Xie, head of NGS sequencing at Curative, on our lab capacity and determination to help end the COVID-19 pandemic.
When did Curative see the need to sequence COVID-19 samples?
In the fall of 2020, we foresaw the need to expand our operations to include a genetic sequencing lab. This mission became realized when variants emerged in the spring. The variant that we hear the most about these days is the Delta variant — which we detected in a sample as early as May 2021.
What is Curative’s capacity to do genome sequencing?
Curative has recently developed a state-of-the-art next-generation sequencing (NGS) lab in Monrovia, California, where our research and development team operates. We have in total 60 people working out of this lab using cutting-edge technology. We are equipped with the machines and personnel needed to handle large sequencing requests from any organization. Genome sequencing is the necessary process by which we can identify variants and the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
What does Curative do when we detect a variant in a sequencing sample?
We play a crucial role in reporting data to public health departments. With this data, experts go on to make recommendations based on the course of the pandemic.
How do we sequence a genome?
We use cutting-edge technology, including the Illumina Sequencer, NextSeq 2000. According to The American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), most COVID-19 tests are sequenced through RT-PCR methods, which stands for reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. These tests are sufficient to diagnose and manage patients. Many RT-PCR assays have been approved by the FDA for emergency use. When samples are collected using RT-PCR methods, in order to be considered for sequencing, these samples must have a low CT value, which means that they have high viral counts. The Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) states that the CT value is the “number of cycles needed for an amplicon to become detectable above background”. Therefore, the CT value is the lowest PCR cycle number that exceeds the minimum detection level. Lower CT values are associated with a higher amount of target viral sequence in the sample tested.
Does the Delta variant impact vaccine efficacy?
The Delta variant spreads quickly and there are breakthrough cases among those who are vaccinated, but the chances of severe infection are minimal compared to those unvaccinated. As far as we’ve seen with the genomes that we’ve sequenced, the vaccine is effective against both the Delta variant and the original strand.
What will Curative do with their sequencing potential post-pandemic?
We will continue to use our expertise and momentum to sequence more comprehensive respiratory panels, including up to 20 pathogens. This will allow us to more accurately pinpoint viruses as they evolve, which will better inform public health departments.
Jean Xie and the research and development team at Curative are continuing to work at the forefront of biomedical innovation. If you are interested in contracting with the team for variant or genome sequencing, please contact: NationalSales@Curative.com