COVID-19


PacBio and Labcorp Team Up on a Global Pan-Pathogen Surveillance Network

Will there be a fourth surge of COVID here in the U.S.? Already that we’re asking the question and it’s not an inevitability is a good sign. It’s become a race between vaccination clinics and viral variants.

The U.S. was a bit slow to this race, but we are catching up. Viral surveillance has become a key part of any nation’s pandemic strategy. This past month, PacBio and Labcorp announced a partnership that brings the tool of long read sequencing to this effort.

Jonas Korlach, CSO at PacBio, and Brian Caveney, President and CMO at Labcorp, join us to discuss their joint surveillance work. Their partnerhsip is not only national but is putting in place what they call a “global pan-pathogen surveillance network."

Jonas compares the network to the kind of close surveillance that global weather systems have been doing for many years. Brian says that Labcorp has an international footprint. He's optimistic that those countries that have been viral hotspots around the world will be working together in close scientific collaboration aided by new laboratory tools to prevent the next pandemic.

Since this podcast was recorded, the Biden administration has announced huge investments in innovation and research as part of their new $2 trillion Jobs Plan. We can hope that there is money marked specifically for the pandemic preparedness infrastructure Jonas and Brian are calling for today and that some version of this plan passes.

Playing Catch Up--Viral Surveillance in the U.S. with Will Lee of Helix

How fast is the coronavirus mutating? Why is the U.K. variant, or B.1.1.7, more transmissible than original strains of the virus? Is viral surveillance the weak spot in the U.S.'s fight against the pandemic?

Will Lee is the VP of Science for Helix, a population genetics company that has had a unique national footprint and ability to retool into a large scale COVID testing lab. Last month the company announced a collaboration with the sequencing and diagnostics company, Illumina, as well as with the CDC to track the so-called U.K. variant of the coronavirus. Their data is being used by the CDC and others to track how far this variant has penetrated the U.S.

Will informs us today about the collaboration and efforts going forward at Helix to track the South African strain, other variants and the importance of surveillance strategies in the larger U.S. efforts to beat the pandemic.

Keith Robison on the State of Sequencing: 2020 Edition

We speak directly with the Oracle today. It's Keith Robison, blogger at Omics Omics. Your All Knowingness, we ask, what has happened in the world of sequencing technology this year?

“The companies may need a mulligan,” he quips and laughs.

But then, maybe, not. It turns out the great Pandemic has driven sequencing technology in its own way. There’s been an explosion of sequencing based diagnostics. That trend was already happening, but the pace was mightily booted along. And all of the technologies have been involved—some new entrants as well--used for their own strengths, to track the powerful virus and all its speeding variations.

We take the flagships one by one, from 10X to the small Genapsys, asking the Oracle in the end whether there is any more room for a shakeup in this mature space. We finish with an impressive story of clinical sequencing for rare disease diagnosis at a world record speed. Oh, Oracle, tell us the future.



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