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Covid-19 Delta Variant Testing Reference Released

Covid-19 testing

(FEMA.gov)

22 July 2021. A company designing synthetic DNA and RNA says reference materials are available for tests that detect the quickly spreading Covid-19 delta variant. Twist Bioscience Corp. in South San Francisco, California says the reference materials are produced for genomic testing and surveillance systems to detect delta and other variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for Covid-19.

Twist Bioscience develops synthetic genetic materials on a silicon platform, patterned after semiconductors, instead of traditional plastic plates and receptacles. This process, says the company, overcomes conventional limitations and inefficiencies to design and construct genes, oligonucleotide collections for Crispr genome-editing RNA, and libraries of genetic variations. Twist says its process based on semiconductors makes it possible to reduce the chemical reaction volumes required, but at the same time increase production throughput by a factor of 1,000. As a result, says the company, it can produce 9,600 genes on a single chip, while traditional plastic lab plates produce a single gene in the same space.

Tracking the spread of infections from SARS-CoV-2 mutations is becoming as important to health authorities as monitoring all Covid-19 infections. Among the company’s products are RNA controls for calibrating high-speed genetic analysis systems, also known as next-generation sequencing, to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 viruses in test specimens. These analytics are used to detect viruses in reverse transcription – polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR, tests for SARS-CoV-2, the so-called gold standard for Covid-19 infection testing.

RNA reference materials for delta and other variants

Twist Bioscience says RNA controls are designed to match precise variations in RNA from the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, reflecting changes in the surface protein on coronavirus spikes. That spike protein, which binds to receptors in cells and starts the infection process, is often the target of Covid-19 diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies.

The company says it began providing SARS-CoV-2 reference test materials in March 2020, and expanded the reference materials to include the delta variant, first identified in India, as well as the alpha, beta, and gamma variants first reported in England, South Africa, and Brazil respectively. Food and Drug Administration lists Twist Bioscience control materials on its web site for referencing full or near-full genome RNA.

Twist Bioscience also designs synthetic antibodies to neutralize SARS-CoV-2 viruses. As reported by Science & Enterprise in September 2020, the company released preclinical data from tests carried out and verified separately by labs at two different universities showing the synthetic antibodies neutralize infection mechanisms in the viruses.

“Rates of vaccinations in many countries have slowed,” says Emily Leproust, CEO and co-founder of Twist Bioscience in a company statement, “with Covid cases specific to the delta variant spiking. We remain steadfast in our commitment to deploy our synthetic DNA manufacturing and R&D capabilities to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, providing critical tools as the virus continues to evolve.”

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