March 19, 2020 | News

COVID-19 response: research and testing

We are actively conducting research on COVID-19 with the goal of developing an antibody-based treatment. Additionally, we are maintaining limited laboratory operations in order to better serve our customers and collaborators who are doing their utmost in the fight against the pandemic.

Launch of new viral RNA extraction solution with Beckman Coulter Life Sciences

The pandemic has resulted in a world-wide shortage of viral RNA extraction kits. Until COVID-19 tests that don’t require RNA extraction are developed and become widely available, we need to alleviate the bottleneck. To help fill this shortage, we teamed up with Beckman Coulter labs to test and validate a new, high-throughput viral RNA extraction solution to increase availability of kits for critical research.

The Beckman Coulter RNAdvance Viral XP Extraction Kit is iRepertoire-validated for use in high-throughput research workflows for RNA extraction from swab samples for use in qRT-PCR.

Key highlights of RNAdvance Viral XP RNA Extraction Kit

  • Isolate viral RNA from nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal swabs.
  • Magnetic bead technology makes this kit ideal for both manual and automated workflows. Reduce overall hands-on time and increase testing throughput with faster extraction. Using manual extraction, up to 48 samples per run can be processed to extract RNA in 45 mins with hands on time of 25 mins. Automation further accelerates this.
  • Extracted RNA is ready for qRT-PCR
  • Protocol enables isolation to be performed in both 96–well plate and single tube formats
  • iRepertoire performed analytical performance assays and specimen assays to demonstrate that the RNAdvance Viral XP extraction kit has a limit of detection of RNA (LoD) of 1 copy of RNA per µL of sample

“We performed more than 100 RNA extractions and more than 500 qPCR reactions during a three-day period to validate RNAdvance Viral XP. The results clearly demonstrate this new solution from Beckman Coulter Life Sciences is a viable alternative to help alleviate a critical shortage in the RNA extraction kit supply chain.

Doing our part to support customers during a time of increased need is a priority for me and all Beckman Coulter Life Sciences associates as we build a robust supply chain, scale production and increase field support capabilities. We’re all in this together, and I’m confident our technology will expand the availability of extraction solutions for research laboratories around the world.”

Miranda Byrne-Steele, PhD, Director of Operations and R&D, iRepertoire

April 29th update: Screening local COVID-19 patient samples for antibodies

We are currently partnering with HudsonAlpha Institude of Biotechnology and Huntsville Hospital (Huntsville, AL) to study local patients diagnosed with COVID-19 under a Huntsville Hospital IRC approved protocol. We are screening patient samples for antibodies to study how the immune system responds to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in hopes of guiding the development of an effective treatment for the disease. Note: Recruitment will be coordinated by public health officials; we are not accepting samples directly from patients.

Click here to read more about this recruitment and COVID-19 research process

Track record of pandemic response

As a leader in immune repertoire sequencing and research, iRepertoire has an established track record in pandemic response. Our founder, Jian Han, M.D., Ph.D., was awarded a Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Award for his work during the SARS outbreak. Dr. Han’s team also worked to respond to H5N1, H1N1, H7N9, and Zika. At the HundsonAlpha Campus, we have the privilege of collaborating with several neighboring/sister companies that are also working to find diagnostic solutions for combating COVID-19.

Click here to read more about the HudsonAlpha activities surrounding COVID-19

Developing a treatment

The typical defense against pandemics are vaccines; however, due to the pipeline from development, to testing, to market, vaccines take years to establish. With the novel coronavirus, we do not have years to mitigate pandemic. According to Rick Myers, PhD, president and scientific director for HudsonAlpha, “A COVID-19 treatment is the best way to bridge the gap until a vaccine is widely available.”

iRepertoire is currently working to develop a treatment based on antibodies. Antibody-based treatments, unlike vaccines, can also effectively be used to treat patients who are already infected. Dr. Han always says “the immune system is nature’s best doctor.” By examining the immune repertoire of patients who have successfully recovered from COVID-19 infection, we can develop a blueprint for antibodies that might help treat future patients.

We are currently analyzing samples from patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19 through Huntsville Hospital, under a Hunstville Hospital IRC approved protocol. “By understanding the immune system of patients that have effectively fought the pathogen, we can pinpoint the exact identity of cells that effectively eliminate the virus out of millions of possibilities” says Dr. Han on this current study. With this growing body of insight into patient proteins, we seek to guide development of an effective treatment for the disease.

Supporting your research

At iRepertoire, we’re doing our part to ensure social distancing, while still making sure we can support the research that’s going to lead to COVID-19 diagnostics and treatments. We’ve split our research group into small teams that work in shifts with ample sterilization procedures in between. At this time, we do not anticipate a delay in sending products out or in completion of service projects. 

Sharing COVID-19 updates 

Learn about testing barriers and initiatives in this short interview recorded live last week as part of Samba Scientific’s COVID-19 Science Spotlight series. Here, leading iRepertoire scientists discuss identifying antigen-specific B-cells in COVID-19 patients. Identifying antibodies specific to COVID-19 in infected patients could lead to the development of antibody-based treatments.

We are currently seeking samples from infected patients and collaborators who could help produce anti-COVID-19 antibodies at scale. Contact us now if you could be a collaborator in this effort.

Check back to this page for regular updates as the outbreak continues