Editorial Article: From sensitive detection to automated data management: Explore how Zymo Research is streamlining COVID-19 testing

Find out how Zymo Research’s state-of-the-art tools are helping laboratories and government agencies facilitate large-scale COVID-19 testing in the United States

19 Oct 2020

Dr. Michael Weinstein, Director of Laboratory Information Systems, Zymo Research and Dr. Paolo Piatti, Senior Scientist at Zymo Research 

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges for scientists and laboratories around the world, from difficulty sourcing reliable and accurate reagents to issues with large-scale data processing. During this time, the main mission of Zymo Research has been to help overcome these pressing challenges by providing laboratories with state-of-the-art tools and reagents to improve the capabilities of the biomedical field and positively impact the quality of life of COVID-19 patients.

In this exclusive SelectScience interview, we hear from Dr. Paolo Piatti, Senior Scientist, and Dr. Michael Weinstein, Director of Laboratory Information Systems, Zymo Research, about how they are helping to facilitate large-scale COVID-19 testing and overcome public health reporting issues in the United States.

Collection, detection, and testing

Initially, one of the biggest difficulties for COVID-19 testing laboratories was securing a sufficient supply of quality reagents at an affordable price. In addition, finding clear guidelines on how to start testing in full compliance of the new regulations was also challenging.

To address this, Zymo Research has integrated its current technologies to provide a complete workflow, from sample collection to sensitive COVID-19 detection, which has now received the FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) as well as CE-IVD certification for in vitro diagnostic use. Throughout the pandemic, Zymo Research has helped provide solutions across the COVID-19 testing workflow to those who needed these most, including COVID-19 RT-PCR reagents, specimen collection devices, and sample extraction systems. 

For example, Dr. Paolo Piatti’s team is dedicated to the development of new assays and molecular tests for several clinical diagnostic applications, most recently focusing on the Quick SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR kit. This kit allows for the sensitive detection of SARS-CoV-2 by targeting three different regions of the viral nucleocapsid (N) gene and a host-specific target region (human RNase P gene) to assess sample quality. “The Quick SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR kit is among the most sensitive tests currently present on the market, due to a limit of detection (LoD) that is as low as 15 viral genome equivalent copies per reaction,” Piatti explains. “This sensitivity means that COVID-19 patients can be promptly identified using our tests, which helps prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”

COVID-19 patients can be promptly identified using our tests, which helps prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2

Dr. Paolo Piatti

Senior Scientist at Zymo Research

The Zymo Research Transmit Program

COVID-19 is the first pandemic for both the era of modern molecular biology and the digital age. With public health departments struggling to manage backlogged data and the increasing need for up-to-date reports, a quick-fire solution was required for those laboratories that did not have the infrastructure to handle the amount of data that was being generated by SARS-CoV-2 testing. 

As a result, Dr. Michael Weinstein and his team at Zymo Research developed an information management program that automates the upload of laboratory test results. The Zymo Research Transmit Program reduces the need for manual input, reducing human error and the potential transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between individuals. The program can also be tailored to each U.S. state and its particular needs, helping testing labs deal with the difficulties of reporting  COVID-19 test results to state health agencies and enabling them to spend more time and energy focused on performing these much-needed tests.

“Before the development of this program, the state of California was getting test results reported faster than they could be manually entered into the state’s public health records, with many laboratories unable to connect to the more efficient electronic reporting gateway,” explains Weinstein. “The Zymo Research Transmit Program was able to clear over 300,000 backlogged results over one weekend and has opened a door that could potentially model a nationwide COVID-19 reporting system in the United States.”

The Zymo Research Transmit Program was able to clear over 300,000 backlogged results over one weekend

Dr. Michael Weinstein

Director of Laboratory Information Systems at Zymo Research


The future of viral diagnostics

Zymo Research aims to use its 25 years of experience in clinical specimen collection, purification, and nucleic acid detection to further assist the diagnostic community in the fight against the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and to innovate its existing diagnostic tools, making them less invasive, more sensitive, and provide earlier detection.

“Seeing how COVID-19 impacted our society has further increased our determination and commitment to our mission and to continue innovating,” Piatti shares. “This innovation has a direct positive impact on the quality of life of patients and their families, which is something I am very grateful to be a part of.”

“COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to help in so many ways, supporting labs with innovative solutions to help the transmission of COVID-19 testing data,” Weinstein explains. “It really is a testament to our mission and vision to help the biomedical field and have a positive impact on humanity. The COVID-19 pandemic may not go away soon, but all of us at Zymo Research are ready and waiting for to help anyway we can.”

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