By mid-January 2021, the U.K., South Africa and Brazil had confirmed that “variants of concern” were driving massive surges in COVID-19 cases in their countries. Once alerted, other nations found these troubling strains rapidly multiplying within their populations as well. At the time, the world had reported 90 million cases, creating abundant opportunities for the coronavirus to mutate. Of those cases, the virus in just 360,000 had been sequenced – and nearly all of them from just a handful of countries.
Swift Biosciences Inc. released an S gene panel for SARS-CoV-2 that covers 100% of the gene even with minimal viral titers. The S gene controls the spike protein, which enables the virus to bind to cells and affects transmissibility, and has accumulated multiple mutations in the concerning variants recently discovered in the U.K., South Africa, Brazil, Denmark and the U.S. The panel is expected to enable rapid scaling of surveillance efforts of the new strains and can be run by any lab using the Illumina system.