Dr. John-Sebastian Eden is a Virologist at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Sydney, Australia. His group uses molecular biology and advanced genomic sequencing techniques to design new methods for virus detection and state-of-the-art bioinformatic analyses to discover viruses with genetic variations, where they originate, and how they spread.
He describes the combination of virology and genomics as “Viromics” and until recently, Dr. Eden’s group would send away their DNA samples for sequencing at specialized service provider labs. With the need for faster turn-around times, the ability to optimize his new assays, and to control the sequencing process from start to finish, they brought this process back into their own lab. Dr. Eden decided on the Illumina iSeq™ 100 system because it is small, powerful, cost-effective, quick, and really easy to use and maintain.
Dr. Eden’s team relies on the accuracy and well-defined Sequencing by Synthesis technology developed by Illumina to easily and affordably obtain the data they require. That data is then used to determine genomic sequences of unknown infectious disease agents in a diverse array of samples. The team then springs into action to translate the results into potential diagnostic assays to be deployed pathology laboratories for screening and epidemiological assays. A recent and very topical example of this has been the SARS-CoV-2 virus involved in the COVID-19 pandemic; where a large team including Dr. Eden used the iSeq for genomic surveillance to determine transmission routes, evolution and inform control strategies for public health decision-makers1.
Sharing data to a public database such as GISAID, allows scientists and health officials access to data and has been shown to inform vaccine design, development of diagnostic tests, and identification of new variants that differ only in a few bases of genetic sequence and surveillance tools. Illumina understands the important role that genome sequencing plays in the surveillance of disease outbreaks and recently announced their partnership to enable the world’s first National Tracking system for COVID-19 patients using genomic data generated with Illumina sequencing instruments in Australia. This partnership will enable real-time data sharing between state-based authorities to further accelerate transmission and spread information and will become a template for any infectious disease that may occur in the future.
Dr. Eden reminds us in the video: “We need to understand the genomes of these viruses so we can answer all the questions about their origins, how they’re evolving, how they’re spreading and I think genomics is a really fundamental part of virology and will continue to be for a long time into the future.”
Research use only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.