Genting unit DNA Electronics' technology detects SARS-CoV-2 sequences

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KUALA LUMPUR (May 15): Genting Bhd's indirect 93.04%-owned subsidiary DNA Electronics Ltd (DNAe), a sequencing company that is currently developing novel diagnostics for use at the point of need, today announced that its internal tests by using LiDia-SEQ™ sequencing technology to identify SARS-CoV-2 indicated positive results. 

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic that is currently causing extensive mortality, morbidity and disruption globally. 

In a statement, DNAe president Samuel Reed said these early test results demonstrate the potential for LiDia-SEQ™ to identify viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. 

"The team is encouraged and all the more driven in our mission to contribute to pandemic responses. Our platform could play a vital role in helping contain future outbreaks by bringing sequencing-based diagnostics to the front line. We are continuing to develop the assay, with a view to working with patient samples soon,” Reed said. 

DNAe executive chairman and cofounder Professor Christofer Toumazou, who is also Regius Professor of Engineering at Imperial College London, commented: “Covid-19 has accentuated the desperate need for accurate and rapid infectious disease diagnostics."

"This need will only heighten over the coming months as the pandemic persists, as societies make steps to reopen, and as we have the onset of other seasonal illnesses side by side with the pandemic. By rapidly providing accurate, actionable information, we believe LiDia-SEQ™ offers numerous benefits to controlling infectious disease outbreaks," Toumazou said. 

LiDia-SEQ™ is the world’s first rapid and direct-from-specimen diagnostic sequencing platform. It is in development for multiple applications including diagnostics for infectious diseases and cancer, with the support of major investor Genting and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). 

BARDA, a division of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in the US Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded DNAe a contract worth up to US$51.9 million if all options are awarded, to support the development of the system, initially for antimicrobial-resistant infections. The platform and assay were recently granted Breakthrough Device designation by the USA Food and Drug Administration.

Genting chairman and chief executive and Visiting Professor at Imperial College London Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay said: “We have long-recognised that DNAe’s unique technology is the approach of the future and is critical to many medical needs, including pandemics.

"We are excited by the early results and this is an important step forward to bringing sequencing to the front line as a rapid, cartridge-contained test that allows frontline workers to easily detect the virus and accurately identify it.”

DNAe’s technology can provide many potential benefits to controlling infectious disease outbreaks. Due to its high accuracy and sensitivity, by using sequencing, the causative virus or even particular strains can be identified. 

Also, it can deliver rapid and cost-effective results by obtaining results within hours instead of days, which allows for rapid triaging, e.g. isolating infected individuals, safely clearing non-infected patients from isolation, and potentially enabling frontline workers to return to work. 

Ease of use of the technology's closed cartridge format will ensure minimal operator interaction and new operators can be rapidly trained.

The technology, which is a benchtop device, is also available at the point of need. It will be easily deployable to temporary hospitals and other environments to support triage, and its fast turnaround time allows for high volume of testing.

The technology also allows multi-usage as sequencing can identify many different viruses and strains, be they routine diseases or outbreaks, in a single test, which will help to earlier detect and contain new hotspots or outbreaks and distinguish new infectious diseases from routine respiratory disease.

At the time of writing, Genting shares rose one sen or 0.25% at RM3.95, bringing it some market capitalisation of RM15.21 billion. Some 2.34 million shares were traded.

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