The discovery and early identification of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, was made possible by Next-Generation DNA sequencing technology (NGS). This discovery was made very quickly after the disease emerged in Wuhan, China and represents the all-important first step in identifying the virus genome. This sequencing allows for the testing and treatment development processes to kick into high gear. One of the earliest published articles on the novel coronavirus discusses the NGS methods used to examine its genome.
IDEX Health & Science (IH&S) has long played an enabling role in NGS with its fluidic and optical products and strong engineering partnerships with sequencing companies. DNA sequencing manufacturers rely on IH&S to design and manufacture fluidic and optical components and sub-systems. Our sites in Bristol, CT, Rohnert Park, CA, Middleboro, MA, Oak Harbor, WA, and Kawaguchi, Japan focus on advanced fluidic systems technologies that partition, degas, and mix sequencing fluids, while our Rochester, NY, and Carlsbad, CA sites innovate the optical systems that have helped to greatly improve sequencing throughput and efficiencies.
Discovering the RNA sequence of SARS-CoV-2 enables the development of the diagnostic tests that are in such high demand. These tests are possible due to a technology known as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR. The invention of PCR more than 30 years ago is considered one of the greatest inventions of the last century. It’s a procedure in which millions of copies of a pathogen’s genetic material are made so they can be detected from a patient sample. It is essentially an amplification method, whereby small amounts of genetic material that may be present in bodily fluids, hair, or tissues can be increased so that there is enough for analysis. Testing is crucial to stem the spread of COVID-19 because it allows healthcare workers to identify and quarantine infected people. This is a critical step in mitigating the spread so that COVID-19 does not overwhelm healthcare systems.
IDEX Health & Science works with many diagnostic companies around the world who are creating new PCR assays and instrument platforms to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples of our contribution to this technology can be seen in our Semrock line of optical filters that are employed in many PCR optical detection systems. These filters improve detection sensitivity by separating the signal from the noise and select for a targeted wavelength of light emitted from a PCR probe that measures the amount of SARS-CoV-2. Our microfluidics business lines in Zweibrucken, Germany and Wallingford, Connecticut provide high precision devices for the critical manipulation of PCR fluids and reagents.
While the current focus is to detect cases of COVID-19, we anticipate that the next phase will be to ramp testing capacity to support COVID-19 patients and to measure and track populations who have gained immunity due to exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Our core capabilities in life science applications along with the products designed and manufactured at all of our fluidics sites play a large role in supporting clinical chemistry analyzers and high throughput immunoassay platforms.
We are living our mission, “Trusted Solutions, Improving Lives,” like never before. Our efforts to support our customers, who develop and supply key instruments, are an essential part of our healthcare infrastructure.
“From the characterization of this new virus to mass testing, IDEX Health & Science has played a critical role in supporting our customers whose instruments are being used 24/7 in the fight against this pandemic. I could not be prouder of our employees as they deliver on our mission and take care of each other during these extraordinary times.” Joe Rytell, President, IDEX Health & Science.