Researchers in Toronto, Canada, have created a platform to screen thousands of COVID-19 samples at once. The development will revolutionize the control of the spread of viruses and other pathogens.
A study published in Nature Communications found that the next generation C19-SPAR-Seq ultra-high-throughput sequencing platform has a sensitivity level of over 95%. The robotic system was developed by researchers at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Institute (LTRI) at Sinai Health.
“Identifying positive samples quickly and accurately is critical in combating this pandemic,” said Dr. Jeff Vrana, senior researcher at LTRI and professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. “New and potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus are currently circulating. The new scalable and automated platform is capable of analyzing thousands of COVID-19 patient samples in a single run. ”
The project involved a team of interns who moved from other research areas to help develop and validate the platform. This allowed the team to move from concept to published article in less than 12 months.
In late 2020, the team again decided to use a robotics platform to screen thousands of positive samples for variants by rapidly sequencing sections of the viral genome with fingerprints to look for key mutations.
The new SPAR-Seq system is cutting edge technology, and the ability to sequence samples in real time has tremendous potential to influence scientists’ understanding of epidemiology and the spread of new coronavirus mutations.
The platform is also economical. The study notes that when running thousands of samples at the same time, the cost of a single test is only about $ 8.