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Oncologica’s Coronafocus Covid-19 integrated Test and Sequence platform enables rapid identification of Covid-19 variants of concern

The emergence of Covid-19 variants are a potential threat to the success of the present global vaccination programmes. Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 evolves over time through the acquisition of random mutations in its genome which is an innate characteristic of viral replication. Mutations have potential to increase the virulence of the virus by for example increasing the transmissibility and/or the severity of the disease. Of more concern is for the variant to evade the protective immunity generated by previous infection or by vaccination. At least three designated “variants of concern” have been recently reported including B.1.1.7 which was first identified in the United Kingdom (where it drove a surge in cases), B.1.351, which was first identified in South Africa, and P.1, which was first identified in travelers from Brazil who were tested at a Japanese airport.

This threat is being mitigated though the introduction of Covid-19 sequencing for people who test Covid-19 positive following PCR/antigen swab testing. Rapid sequencing of swab positive cases enables immediate mobilization of NHS test and track services directed at preventing the spread of high risk variants in the community. Test and sequence has now been introduced for international travelers arriving in the UK. All international arrivals in quarantine are required to take a test on or before day 2 (of their quarantine period), for variant surveillance (Covid-19 sequencing for test positive cases), and a test on or after day 8 (of their quarantine period).

Testing and sequencing needs to be completed in a short time window (72hours) so the information can be effectively actioned, namely identifying and isolating individuals carrying high risk Covid-19 variants. To achieve this rapid reporting time oncologica has established Coronofocus ( ), an integrated Test and Sequence platform to combine high capacity PCR testing with SARS-CoV-2 variant identification. Notably Oncologica utilises semiconductor sequencing technology that enables >99% coverage of the viral coding sequence enabling the precise identification of Covid-19 variants.

Coronafocus provides an effective solution to rapid test and sequence demands and will help contribute to the UK surveillance programme aimed at preventing the spread of variants that can potentially circumvent vaccine immunity.