Digital Salutem
08 March 2022

Genomic Sequencing is Pathing the Way to Digital Health Through its Covid Response & Innovation

By João Bocas
Genomic Sequencing is Pathing the Way to Digital Health Through its Covid Response & Innovation

I am sure that you will agree with me that Digital Health is more relevant and important than ever before.

You may ask how crucial is genomic sequencing to Covid-19 response?

Genomic sequencing and public digital health

In an interview article with the WHO (World Health Organisation), Professor Tulio De Oliveira, the South Africa-based Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) and Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) said that: “Genomic sequencing has been very important for the Covid-19 response. New variants are forming all the time, so genomic data has guided countries to make quick and informed public health decisions since the start of the pandemic.”

Adopting cutting-edge technology, tools and innovation in public health and medicine is no easy task, yet many companies are doing great work contributing to the society and the challenging world that we all live in right now. Among them, MGI, which has been playing a vital role in combating Covid-19, has opened the door to digital health through its highly effective genomics sequencing technologies.

An interesting fact about MGI is that it enabled the discovery of the first case of the omicron variant in Sweden and Saudi Arabia. In addition to the detection and surveillance of omicron in South Africa wastewater, MGI has also supported other nations to detect the first cases of the variant in their country.

As a biotech company with a primary focus on high throughput genetic sequencers and lab automation systems, MGI’s technologies such as MGISTP-7000 have delivered incredible results in the fight against Covid-19. MGISTP-7000 is a high-throughput automated sample transfer processing system that is specially designed for nucleic acid detection in the Covid-19 pandemic. Integrated with tube decapping, tube recapping, barcode identification, automated liquid transfer and negative pressure protection, the system allows lab staff to load and transfer up to 192 potential testing samples to plate in just 40 minutes, all done with just one click and zero human contract. This scales up testing capacity while reducing the risk of infection for lab technicians. The increase in efficiency also means lower testing costs. BIOR, one of Latvia’s leading COVID-19 testing labs, estimated that the cost of one saliva test could reduce from the current €38 to €25, with the use of automatic virus nucleic acid extraction equipment in Latvia.

Now most of the world is adapting and learning how to live with the presence of Covid-19, rapid testing and DNA sequencing are paramount for laboratories across the globe. And automation capabilities can be utilized extremely efficiently on our path to the new normal. In particular, I would like to draw your attention to how mobile testing brings highly valuable efficiency Covid-19 testing to the mass population.

The innovative Covid-19 Container Lab, specifically designed by MGI for fast mass testing, is a mobile modular Biosafety Level 2 laboratory fitted in a 12-meter shipping container that is capable of processing 3,000 samples per day and only requires three technicians to operate. Its ease of operation reduces test result waiting time from the standard 48 hours to just 4.5 hours, making it particularly useful for mass testing applications, such as in the airports, ports, and train stations where a high volume of travellers needs to get tested for COVID-19. This mobile lab has been crucial in creating a COVID-safe environment for the World Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm, Sweden leading up to the Winter Olympic, providing COVID-19 testing support for all the participants attending the Championships.

Besides Covid-testing, the technology of DNA sequencing also has a huge application in digital health. DNA sequencing is effective in helping us identify and/or cure other diseases and it is widely used in the identification of cancer. In order to develop an integrated automation solution to empower tumour gene detection, MGI’s automated sample preparation systems automate the labour-intensive and time-consuming procedures in diagnostic testing laboratories, which enhance the overall efficiency and reduce human errors in the laboratory.

The ongoing pandemic has undoubtedly increased the need for genomics advancement more than ever. Increased genomic sequencing capabilities which accelerated through the use of AI not only can help track pathogens and viruses and identify their genomic signatures, but they can also provide the world with affordable, time-efficient and easy-to-use healthcare solutions in combating Covid-19 or any other diseases. Moreover, automation can also help make a faster diagnosis and parallel testing where appropriate to compare and use risk stratification against benchmark results.

There is so much value and potential in leveraging genomic sequencing for public health and to the benefit of the worldwide population. The focus is on COVID-19 now, but we must take this opportunity to build a sustainable and more inclusive world in the future as a result.

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