Two teams of Italian researchers working on infectious diseases have analysed the SARS-CoV-2 genome using a new next-generation sequencing (NGS) research assay developed by Thermo Fisher Scientific.

The independent research teams are from Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases (IRCCS) in Rome and the Forensic Division of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Public Health (DSBSP) at Ancona University Hospital.

The research teams have analysed the genome from locally acquired samples to generate early data that demonstrated a level of genetic variability and stability in the genome of coronavirus.

The research findings showed that the future coronavirus vaccines can be effective and could help the scientific community to better understand the epidemiology and spread of COVID-19.

IRCCS virology department head Maria Rosaria Capobianchi said: “The ability to very quickly run multiple samples and accurately decipher key changes in the virus’s genetic code will be crucial for the global scientific community to stay ahead of SARS-CoV-2 and to develop strategies against it that, ultimately, can be leveraged to help resolve the pandemic.

“Viral genomes are dynamic and these preliminary data need further analysis to determine the biological significance of the gene variants and to investigate the evolutionary path of the coronavirus.”

Ion AmpliSeq SARS-COV-2 Research Panel is used to analyse the SARS-CoV-2 genome

According to the company, viruses that quickly mutate in less time becomes challenging for developing effective vaccines to protect people against infection.

The Italian research teams have conducted the sequencing work using Thermo Fisher’s new Ion AmpliSeq SARS-COV-2 Research Panel, which is optimised to run on the Ion GeneStudio S5 Systems.

The Ion AmpliSeq SARS-COV-2 Research Panel is a targeted NGS solution that facilitates analysis of the entire SARS-CoV-2 genome, and provides a high-throughput workflow for monitoring genomic evolution, which is critical during a rapidly developing pandemic.

Thermo Fisher said that it has started optimising the Ion AmpliSeq SARS-COV-2 Research Panel for the Ion Torrent Genexus System, to further expedite NGS analysis of SARS-CoV-2. IRCCS is the first research center in Europe to generate the whole genome sequencing data of the coronavirus on Ion Torrent NGS platform.

Thermo Fisher Scientific senior vice president and life sciences solutions president Peter Silvester said: “Thermo Fisher’s immediate response to first develop a PCR SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic assay and now a next-generation sequencing research solution to help customers investigate coronavirus is at the core of our mission.

“We share the global community’s heightened concern during this unprecedented public health crisis and, for this reason, we are continuing to maximize our efforts to provide our laboratory partners, infectious disease researchers and vaccine developers with the most advanced tools in support of their very important work.”