UAE and UK partnership unveils scalable solution for COVID-19 detection

Group 42 and Oxford Nanopore Technologies have released details of a promising end-to-end solution that can mass screen for SARS-CoV-2.
By Rachel McArthur
07:07 am
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Credit: Group 42 and Oxford Nanopore Technologies

A UAE-based artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing company has unveiled “population-scale technology” that is said to rapidly and accurately detect SARS-CoV-2, with an end-to-end solution expected to be launched “within weeks,” it announced in a statement.

Abu Dhabi’s Group 42 (G42) has been working in partnership with the UK’s Oxford Nanopore Technologies, which specialises in advanced sequencing technology, to develop the solution that it is claiming “has the potential to transform the diagnostics industry globally.”

“With ultra-high parallel processing capacity … this innovation uses the LamPORE assay, which is based on the LAMP [loop-mediated isothermal amplification] technique and Oxford Nanopore’s rapid sequencing platform, in combination with the high-throughput automation, sample processing and reporting workflows developed by G42,” the statement explained. “Population-wide testing can help break the transmission patterns of the virus, reducing the number of cases when used in conjunction with a rapid public health response.

“However, existing methods make such large-scale processing logistically difficult and cost-prohibitive. The end-to-end solution developed by G42 and Oxford Nanopore can dramatically reduce the complexity of mass screening.”

THE LARGER CONTEXT

This new technology – created out of a mission by both companies to optimise sequencing capabilities to identify, track, trace and isolate cases of COVID-19 cases – has now been incorporated into the UAE’s national testing strategy. G42 is expected to scale to hundreds of thousands of samples daily in its sequencing facility in the UAE capital.

While the LamPORE assay is performed on extracted RNA from swabs, the company is working on developing capabilities so that it can also work directly from saliva. The technology also supports decentralised operations, resulting in on-demand testing being able to take place anytime at any location.

In terms of expansion, G42 and Oxford Nanopore are currently working on the production capacity for global deployment of the technology, and are also factoring in considerations to better prepare for future outbreaks.

Additionally, the LamPORE assay can be used to analyse environmental samples to assess the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on surfaces, or in systems such as water and sewage treatment facilities.

“The collaboration with Oxford Nanopore, a global leader in advanced sequencing products, accelerates G42’s ongoing endeavour to develop impactful applications for public health,” said G42’s CEO, Peng Xiao. “This breakthrough solution is a result of the tireless effort by our joint teams under the extraordinary pressure of COVID-19. The worst of the pandemic has brought out the best in us. We believe this capability will not only enable large-scale screening of SARS-CoV-2, but also fundamentally shift the paradigm on health diagnostics in general.”

ON THE RECORD

According to Dr Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore: “Precise and cost-efficient population-scale testing is key to a responsible easing of restrictions, to protect the health of populations and supporting the re-opening of global economic activity.

“Rapid insights, scalability, and non-PCR dependence, all make a high-throughput screening capacity built on LamPORE technology the right tool for governments and organisations to implement mass-scale testing. We are confident that our partnership with G42 will allow us to successfully deploy this new technology around the world.”

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