April 8, 2020  |  Public health + surveillance

In Battle Against COVID-19 Pandemic, Scientists Turn to PacBio Sequencing

Graphic of coronavirus infection worldwide
Image by Miroslava Chrienova from Pixabay

Our team is proud to announce that PacBio has been working closely with customers to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists in commercial, academic, and government research teams are using highly accurate SMRT Sequencing data to resolve variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that exist within one individual or across a population of patients, which is critical to developing and maintaining effective diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics.
Many of these efforts are powered by our HiFi reads, which are both long and highly accurate. Such reads are well-suited for applications like viral sequencing, which requires the ability to distinguish variants that may differ by only a handful of single nucleotide variants (SNVs) within a viral gene or across an entire viral genome.
Here’s a look at how some research teams are deploying PacBio sequencing for their coronavirus investigations:

  • LabCorp, which is actively supporting the response to COVID-19 in the United States and globally, will work closely with PacBio to sequence a large number of SARS-CoV-2 viruses from de-identified positive samples. LabCorp’s scientific teams will use this information to shed light on virus evolution, mutations found in different geographic regions, and implications for disease severity and outcomes, helping to support more informed patient treatment decisions.

“As we strive to rapidly learn as much as possible about the biology of this novel coronavirus to help deal with the current pandemic and also to look ahead to future outbreaks, SMRT Sequencing will give us an accurate, high-resolution view of the pathogen.”
Marcia Eisenberg, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of LabCorp Diagnostics

  • Scientists at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are planning to use the Sequel II System to study virus population diversity and minor variants in samples collected from infected individuals. The information could ultimately be used to support the design of effective vaccines and antibody-based therapies.
  • At the University of California, San Diego, scientists are using SMRT Sequencing data to analyze SARS-CoV-2 samples. They will utilize targeted sequencing data to study the viral genome as well as shotgun metagenomics to characterize the microbiome of nasal tissues responding to a COVID-19 infection.

“We anticipate that the insights we will gain from HiFi sequencing on the Sequel II System will contribute significantly to our knowledge about SARS-CoV-2 and how it operates in people.”
Rob Knight, PhD, Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego

  • At the Research Center Borstel, a member of the German Leibniz Association, scientists who focus on lung diseases will be sequencing SARS-CoV-2 samples and other lung pathogens collected from routine diagnostic samples to foster genomic diagnostic applications and study their spread and evolution.
  • Researchers at the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center have used PacBio sequencing technology to study the human B-cell response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with the goal of identifying therapeutics or protective antibodies from patient samples.

“We are proud to support the rapidly expanding group of our customers who are engaged in this essential work and believe that the unique nature of SMRT Sequencing will allow them to delve into virus biology and host response research in a way that directly supports the development of much needed diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines for managing COVID-19,” said Jonas Korlach, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, PacBio.
Visit our COVID-19 Sequencing Resource Center to review the latest protocols, primer sets, and relevant publications.

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