On Friday, January 31, 2020, Arbor Biosciences received a request from a researcher who needed help reconstructing the full viral genome of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. She and her team study viral genomes in a variety of animal and human host species, and they were eager to study the evolution and genetic traits of the newly circulating coronavirus. “This group had used our myBaits custom kits successfully for previous research projects on different viruses and were interested in applying the same approach to their urgent COVID-19 research needs,” Alison Devault, PhD, Director of Genomics at Arbor Biosciences, explained via email.
Arbor Biosciences responded by accessing the full and partial SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequences that were publicly available in the NCBI GenBank database. Next, they used their in-house algorithms to design a curated set of hybridization capture probe sequences to detect and retrieve full viral genomes from any sample. They rapidly synthesized the probes, rigorously tested them, and packaged them into a customized kit. “We were able to get the kit into their hands quite quickly. The total time between receiving the initial request and shipping out the finalized kit was just one week,” Devault said.
The resulting myBaits SARS-CoV-2 kit should assist researchers with myriad research applications, including tracing the paths of the virus as it spreads throughout global populations, as well as comparing its sequence to other viruses to identify where and when it originated as a human pathogen. The kit allows scientists to reconstruct the entire viral genome from any type of sample, whether human, animal or environmental.
Researchers seeking to understand the evolutionary history of viruses can track the accumulation of mutations in the genome sequence to reconstruct the historical path of the virus. The first whole genome sequence was published on January 5, 2020, and thousands of genomes have been sequenced using various methods since this date. Recent research shows that a large proportion of the global genetic diversity of SARS-CoV-2 is found in all hardest-hit countries, suggesting extensive global transmission from early on in the epidemic and the absence of single “Patient Zeroes” in most countries1.
The kit may also assist in identifying possible treatments to combat COVID-19. “Researchers can utilize full genome sequence information to link specific genetic changes to various virulence characteristics,” said Devault.
Given the urgent global research needs surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Arbor Biosciences provided the original kit free of charge to the researchers who requested it. To contribute to ongoing efforts to better understand the pandemic, the company continues to offer up to 96 reactions free of charge to all researchers. “The response so far has been tremendous, and we are very pleased to be able to help in any way with fighting COVID-19 during these incredibly challenging times,” said Devault.
To learn more about the SARS-CoV-2 myBaits kit, please visit www.arborbiosci.com
1. L. van Dorp et al., “Emergence of genomic diversity and recurrent mutations in SARS-CoV-2,” Infection, Genetics and Evolution, In Press, Journal Pre-proof, Available online 5 May 2020.
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