At the time of writing, more than 1.3M people have been infected and more than 72,600 deaths have been linked to the current outbreak of coronavirus. We caught up with Trey Martin, President, of specialist genomics supplier Integrated DNA Technologies to find out how a reagent company responds at a time of incredible demand.
Why is it so important to test for COVID-19? Obviously, failure to identify and treat infected people increases the risk and rate of the disease spreading. Additionally, patient observation and treatment regimens based on false-positive assessments lead down blind alleys and result in a waste of precious time and resources. Therefore, the establishment of diagnostic methods accounts for a large part of early research activity around potential pandemics. Fortunately, researchers have gained a lot of ground on the diagnostic front over the past few decades.
We were well-positioned to respond rapidly to the current situation, being the first company in the US to have our primer and probe kits qualified for use as a key component of the CDC EUA testing protocol for the diagnosis and detection of the virus.
How did you manage to scale production to respond to the increased demand? IDT is accustomed to surges in demand from our many customers in Clinical Diagnostics, so we are prepared to dynamically reassign cross-trained staff and we have standard processes in place to accelerate the acquisition of raw materials to respond to spikes in demand. We have always been able to scale-up quickly, so the fact that we could do that and respond in the midst of a pandemic to serve the public interest has been very rewarding for our entire team. We are honoured to be a part of the effort to help in the outbreak.
Did you invest in special laboratories or equipment to develop the primers and probes? We first developed clean rooms in our GMP suites in Coralville, Iowa in 2007. Manufacturing in these clean rooms enables IDT to produce repeatable and reproducible quality products for customers who use them as components of diagnostic tests, preclinical studies, and other purposes. We have leveraged these capabilities in our response to previous outbreaks, including Zika and Ebola. We have also replicated this capability in our Leuven, Belgium plant for additional capacity and continuity of supply.
In what other ways are you supporting the COVID-19 outbreak response? The research community was quick to act in response to the coronavirus outbreak. We will stay apprised of the latest global research priorities and look to support researchers, making their progress faster and easier. As the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently noted, “harnessing the power of science is critical for bringing this outbreak under control.” We are fully committed to doing our part.
Trey Martin is President of Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT)a supplier of custom nucleic acids, serving the areas of academic research, biotechnology, clinical diagnostics, and pharmaceutical development.