The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of biosurveillance to understand, control and limit the spread of human diseases. In response to the pandemic, the laboratories at PTP Science Park in Lodi, Italy, quickly enhanced their set-up, introducing various assays to gain a deeper understanding of the virus. Researchers now not only diagnose COVID-19, but also measure anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels after infection and vaccination to learn about the pathogenesis of the disease and how our immune systems respond to infection.
The advent of new genetics technologies has exploded in the last decade. Since the unravelling of the human genome project in 2003, and with recent discoveries in the field of epigenetics, we are starting to understand not only how and when genes are expressed, but which post-translational modifications are important in disease, and how we can manipulate them therapeutically. Professor Christopher E Mason has developed new technologies to catalog genetic and epigenetic changes caused by everything from cancers to novel viruses, and these tools have proven invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to look at laboratory routines to see if they are really pandemic proof. For example, the explosive demand for high throughput genomic analysis often creates upstream pressures to process many more samples and prepare high quality DNA. The rapid shutdown of non-essential workplaces and services, coupled with the surge in demand for laboratory testing, put immense strain on multiple aspects of normal laboratory operations, such as strict rules on the need for personal protective equipment – which was in limited supply – and required physical distancing. Consumables stocks and reagents also dwindled, as they were being used at a much faster rate and supply chains were affected by global demand. Now that the limitations of current laboratory routines have been highlighted, it’s time to consider how to make laboratories pandemic proof.
The ever-increasing throughput and ever-decreasing cost of next generation sequencing have made this technology a practical and affordable solution for everything from molecular diagnostics and antimicrobial susceptibility testing to crop research and environmental monitoring. For many of these applications, the bottleneck in the workflow – which can account for considerable hidden costs – lies in sample extraction. Tecan has partnered with Zymo Research to offer labs an automated and optimized solution for nucleic acid processing.