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Illumina, Inc. ILMN announced today that the Australian public health laboratories will aim to sequence the virus genomes of all positive COVID-19 tests in Australia and track COVID-19 using genomics across the country, rather than state by state. This will done under a ground-breaking initiative spearheaded by Australia’s public health laboratory organisations and leading industry partners.
Illumina’s partnership with the Communicable Disease Genomics Network (“CDGN”) will utilize the former’s next-generation genomic sequencing technology to track COVID-19. The next-generation sequencing (“NGS”) technology will enable real-time data sharing and integration, which will aid in better understanding the transmission and spread of the virus.
Notably, this will be coordinated by the CDGN and the first national implementation of pathogen surveillance. The partnership reflects an important step toward Australia’s pandemic response.
With the latest collaboration, Illumina aims to strengthen its Clinical Genomics business worldwide.
Rationale Behind the Collaboration
Per the medical fraternity, the research using the precision of NGS technology is expected to provide a better understanding of the nature, spread and evolution of COVID-19. The project will also aid in measuring the impact of using this technology not only for the COVID-19 pandemic but also for future responses.
The importance of pathogen genomics is that it presents information that would otherwise be missed, including rapid insights into the nature of COVID-19. The project will be immediately applied for the investigation of outbreaks, including identification of emerging outbreaks and transmission events as part of efforts to reduce community transmission.
Genomics can also be utilized to identify mutations of COVID-19 in the Australian population to aid in treatments and vaccines. It is also useful for accurately identifying persistent infection versus reinfection or inactive infection. This is particularly significant for healthcare workers and can help protect the capacity of the frontline workforce and vulnerable patients.
The delivery of Illumina’s systems in four of the major public health laboratories in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland will expand their capacities to sequence pathogens, including COVID-19 samples.
Further, the Medical Research Future Fund’s grant will extend support to other public health laboratories with the aim of sequencing virus genomes of all positive COVID-19 tests across Australia.
Per a report by Fior Markets published on GlobeNewswire, the global genomics market is expected to reach from $17.67 billion in 2018 to $48.11 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of approximately 13.3%. Factors like growing institutional support for the genomic research projects, significant decrease in sequencing costs and increasing applications of genomics are likely to drive the market.
Given the market potential, the collaboration seems to have been timed-well.
Of late, Illumina has been witnessing a slew of developments across its business.
The company, in August, launched the NovaSeq 6000 v1.5 Reagent Kit to make whole genome sequencing more accessible and affordable for labs of all sizes.
The company acquired BlueBee in June, which is a cloud-based software company providing genomics analysis solutions to research and clinical customers.
In the same month, Illumina received the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its COVIDSeq Test, leading the way for large-scale NGS-based testing for coronavirus.
Comparison With Peers
In the fight against the pandemic, Illumina’s peer QIAGEN N.V. QGEN has been making notable progress. In August, QIAGEN launched the QIAseq SARS-CoV-2 Primer Panel for NGS of the coronavirus genome. An integrated analysis and interpretation workflows for insight into the evolution and spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, were part of the launch.
10x Genomics TXG has been making significant progress with respect to combatting the pandemic. The company is witnessing growing demand for its sequencing instruments, particularly driven by COVID-19-related research, which often required placing the Chromium controller in a biosafety lab. In July, the company launched its new Chromium Single Cell Immune Profiling v2 product that is helpful in understanding COVID-19 to advance science for the development of vaccines, antiviral drugs and clinical treatments related to the SARS-CoV-2 viral infection.
Meanwhile, Fulgent Genetics, Inc. FLGT announced a partnership with State of Utah and Miami-Dade County in Florida for COVID-19 testing, both in September. The company, in June, had received an EUA for its at-home testing solution for COVID-19. In May, Fulgent Genetics received an EUA for its Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test for the detection of SARS-CoV-2.
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