G42 Healthcare recently conducted a SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing study that resulted in the identification of the genomic source of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study is currently in the final stages of production and as soon as it is concluded, it will be published as a scientific paper.
As per a WAM report, the study will help in calculating the development and expansion patterns of the COVID-19 virus since the onset of the disease in the UAE. It also provides further insights for a sustainable screening of dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that will eventually help the authorities in better preparing for future diseases or epidemics.
Researchers are analysing the impact of community infections on the spread of COVID-19 across the UAE with the aim of better understanding the viral mutations. It will also help them in understanding the role of viral mutations in sustaining the pandemic even as the health authorities have implemented strict measures to control the spread of the virus.
One of the major goals of the longitudinal study is to analyze the potential evolution of a more virulent subtype and its impact on the virus control measures imposed by the authorities in view of the growth of the pandemic. The study has come at a crucial time, noting that a new and more infectious COVID-19 strain was recently discovered in the United Kingdom. Therefore, the study will underline the role of predictive analysis and data in improving the national and regional response to the pandemic crisis.
As part of the study, the viral genome sequencing was conducted on 1,067 nasopharyngeal swab samples collected between May and June 2020 in Abu Dhabi. G42 Healthcare carried out the study under the guidance of the Department of Health (DoH), Abu Dhabi, in accordance with all relevant local regulations.
Significantly, the analysis disclosed unique genetic variations distinctive to virus strains in the UAE virus strains and various patterns of the development of the disease.
Results from the study will help in improving diagnostic accuracy and sensitivity to better address the pandemic crisis. At the same time, it will also help in re-designing new PCR primers that can be upgraded to current primer pools. This will further enhance the capacity of targeting new viral mutations that might not be present in those imported kits that are currently on the market.
Speaking over the development, G42 Healthcare CEO Ashish Koshy said that the new study will strengthen the institution's commitment to finding effective public healthcare solutions in the ongoing battle against the pandemic. In addition, it will reinforce accuracy and reliability in testing for the disease.
"For this study, we have capitalized on our strength of unparalleled genomics solutions, which is a key driver of the population genome program launched by G42 Healthcare in December 2019 under the guidance of the Department of Health," Ashish Koshy said.
He added that unparalleled genomics solutions are aimed at creating a reference genome specific to UAE citizens in a bid to facilitate a robust, preventive, and personalized healthcare system across the country.
He further stated that G42 Healthcare's genomics technology and scalable expertise support the national genome project of the UAE, highlighting the groundbreaking work carried out by relevant entities in addressing the pandemic. He affirmed that UAE's efforts enabled the institution in creating effective and unmatched solutions aimed at changing the face of the healthcare sector in the country for the greater good of the community.
G42 Healthcare emerged as a key player in the fight against the global pandemic as it provided the necessary technology to generate important and insightful data for this study.
The project utilized the potential of AI and a well-established genomics lab to produce the results with short-read sequencing technologies and cloud computing resources that were crucial for the mammoth throughput of data.
G42 Healthcare, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi-based Group 42, also facilitated the first Phase III clinical trials of an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine in the pan-Arab region. Launched in the UAE on July 16, 2020, the vaccine trial saw the participation of more than 43,000 volunteers from around 125 nationalities across the country.