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Scientists from Noblis and DoD Identify Unique Genetic Sequences of Emerging Coronavirus Threat

Credit: NIAID/RML

Scientists from Noblis and the Defense Biological Product Assurance Office (DBPAO), a component of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND), are continuously evaluating polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays (tests) for detection of the new Wuhan coronavirus.

“Noblis is pleased to collaborate with our customers to accelerate the virus detection process and combat the coronavirus outbreak,” said Amr ElSawy, president and CEO, Noblis. “Our scientists and technical experts are using advanced analytics, bioinformatics and high-performance computing solutions for biosurveillance and other areas which are contributing to global public health and safety.”

The research was done using BioLaboro, a Noblis application developed for rapidly designing de novo (new) assays and validating existing PCR detection assays. The data, published by the researchers at the online discussion forum, http://virological.org/, identifies four highly specific sequences which are unique to the new coronavirus and are in disparate locations across the genome. The four BioLaboro assays were compared to four assays from a German group (Corman and colleagues) as well as those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which are currently in use as diagnostics. The four Noblis assays were found to be in different locations in the genome sequence compared to the other assays.

As new whole genome sequences of the Wuhan virus are added daily, there is an ongoing need to immediately evaluate the effectiveness of existing assays and to design new ones when signature erosion is observed (degraded assay performance due to genetic changes in the virus sequences). Emerging and reemerging infectious diseases, like the Wuhan coronavirus, known officially as the “Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV,” that emerged in China at the end of 2019, are a significant threat to global public health. Rapid spread of this virus may lead to a genetically diverse collection of variants with a paucity of epidemiological information. Leveraging advances in next generation sequencing technologies, whole genome sequence data can be produced within 24 hours of obtaining a sample. Noblis and DBPAO are using new data submissions to continue to monitor signature erosion in the Wuhan virus with BioLaboro, updating the results on the blog post at http://virological.org/.

Noblis Life Sciences

Noblis is an industry leader in developing world-class bioinformatics tools to support the nation’s rapidly evolving biosurveillance needs. Their bioinformatics expertise uses big data, advanced analytics, and high-performance computing to create a layered defense against biological weapons. Customized Noblis-designed bioinformatics tools for metagenomic analysis are utilized to detect, define, deter and defeat biological threats. Learn more about Noblis’ full spectrum of Life Sciences support here or our CBRNE capabilities here.

About Noblis

Noblis is a dynamic science, technology, and strategy organization dedicated to creating forward-thinking technical and advisory solutions in the public interest. We bring the best of scientific thought, management, and engineering expertise together in an environment of independence and objectivity to deliver enduring impact on federal missions. Noblis works with a wide range of government clients in the defense, intelligence and federal civil sectors. Together with our wholly owned subsidiary, Noblis ESI, we tackle the nation’s toughest problems and support our clients’ most critical missions.

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