Policy & Regulation
Genomic Specialists Collaborate to Create Australia's First National COVID-19 Tracking System
15 September 2020 - - The Australian public health laboratories will aim to sequence the virus genomes of all positive COVID-19 tests in Australia and track COVID-19 using genomics across the country, rather than state by state, under an initiative spearheaded by Australia's public health laboratory organisations and industry partners, DNA sequencing and array-based technologies specialist Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) said.

The Communicable Disease Genomics Network and Illumina are collaborating to track COVID-19 using next-generation genomic sequencing technology, which enables real-time data sharing and integration to better understand the transmission and spread of the virus.

Coordinated by the CDGN, this will be the first national implementation of pathogen surveillance and a critical step forward in Australia's pandemic response.

The Australian government has provided a AUD USD3.3M Medical Research Future Fund grant through The University of New South Wales Sydney's School of Medical Sciences.

As part of the research project, Illumina has further contributed more than AUD 2m worth of its genomic sequencing systems and related consumables.

UNSW Conjoint Professor Bill Rawlinson, Senior Medical Virologist, said the research project will address the urgent need for national implementation of COVID-19 genomics in Australia.

Illumina's systems are expected to be delivered next week to the Doherty Institute, Westmead Hospital, UNSW at the Prince Of Wales Hospital and Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services, expanding the capacity of the four major public health laboratories in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland to sequence pathogens, including COVID-19 samples.

The Medical Research Future Fund grant will also help to build support in other jurisdictional public health laboratories and, with the added support of State and Territory governments, will aim to sequence virus genomes of all positive COVID-19 tests in Australia.

Pathogen genomics can reveal information that would otherwise be missed, including rapid insights into the behaviour, spread and evolution of COVID-19.

This project will have an immediate application in the investigation of outbreaks, including identification of emerging outbreaks and transmission events as part of efforts to reduce community transmission.

Other benefits of genomics include the ability to identify mutations of COVID-19 in the Australian population to inform the design of treatments and vaccines, and the capacity to precisely identify persistent infection versus reinfection or inactive infection.

This holds particular significance to healthcare workers and can help protect the capacity of the frontline workforce and vulnerable patients.

Illumina is in DNA sequencing and array-based technologies, serving customers in the research, clinical, and applied markets.

Its products are used for applications in the life sciences, oncology, reproductive health, agriculture, and other emerging segments.