The NGS equipment was initially designed for sequencing the 3 billion base pair human genome. It can read, process, and analyze many DNA and RNA samples in parallel on one machine
Fremont, CA: Cell programming platform company Ginkgo Bioworks secured a USD 70 million investment from Illumina (Nasdaq: ILMN) and existing investors General Atlantic and Viking Global Investors. The new venture will help the company to build the infrastructure that could enable rapid epidemic response. Large scale testing is essential to slow down the spread of the virus, and experts believe millions of tests are needed per day in the United States to control this epidemic. Ginkgo aims to achieve an unprecedented scale with automation capabilities, leveraging Illumina's next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology to enable widespread testing for COVID-19.
"As programmers of DNA, we recognize rapid pandemic response as an essential technology that must be built alongside biological engineering," said Jason Kelly, CEO, and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks. "The infrastructure we are building for next-generation sequencing is critical for responding to the current pandemic, as well as providing early detection and response for the future."
The NGS equipment was initially designed for sequencing the 3 billion base pair human genome. It can read, process, and analyze many DNA and RNA samples in parallel on one machine. These machines can be utilized to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus's presence, enabling tens of thousands of tests to be run at the same time on equipment the size of a washing machine. Combined with Ginkgo's hardware and software that is designed for the large-scale automation of biological experiments, NGS can significantly increase COVID-19 testing capacity, contributing to the testing volume that many public health experts believe is necessary for slowing the spread of the virus.
The company is deploying its resources towards building an epidemic monitoring and diagnostic testing facility in its Boston Seaport labs, developing processes that use Illumina's NGS technology for large-scale testing and whole genome sequencing and environmental monitoring. At present, being in the early build phase, Ginkgo aims to have NGS-based testing capacity available to help reopen schools and businesses. Also, the company has already made its current NGS capacity available at no cost to public health departments across the U.S.
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