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In Brief This Week: Broad Institute, CMS, Twist Bioscience, and More

NEW YORK – The Broad Institute said this week that its CLIA-certified Clinical Research Sequencing Platform testing center has been named a Massachusetts State reference laboratory, and that it has begun processing COVID-19 test samples from patients across New England. The lab returned its first batch of results back to physicians within 24 hours of receiving samples, and as teams at the testing center apply additional automation, the Broad anticipates that tests will soon begin to take approximately 12 hours from receipt to complete.

The institute said it has adapted an existing facility used to process clinical samples for genomic assays to create capacity at the testing center to process approximately 2,000 COVID-19 tests per day. The facility is performing the existing CDC RT-qPCR COVID-19 diagnostic test.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services granted a temporary waiver this week allowing pathologists to review pathology slides remotely during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemicThe agency usually requires pathologists to perform diagnostic tests in a CLIA-certified lab, but after receiving requests from the College of American Pathologists, the agency said it wouldn’t enforce that requirement.

Twist Bioscience announced on Thursday that it has signed an agreement to supply Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) with antibodies and synthetic DNA to support development of potential therapies for COVID-19. Under the terms of the deal, Twist's biopharma division will also provide antibody drug discovery libraries and will screen them for potential therapeutics that could treat COVID-19 patients.

Sophia Genetics said this week that it is extending its partnership with Paragon Genomics by adding its analytics services to Paragon's recently launched CleanPlex SARS-CoV-2 panel for COVID-19 coronavirus detection.

The combined offering marries Paragon's new panel reagent kit for whole-genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus with Sophia's cloud-based platform. The companies said that this partnership will increase throughput of COVID-19 diagnostic tests while allowing epidemiologists and researchers to track the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 over time at the whole-genome level.

African genomics research, services, and development company 54gene said this week that it has launched a fund to address the challenges of testing for COVID-19 in Nigeria. To support the ongoing efforts of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 54gene donated $150,000 and secured an additional $350,000 from other partners, including Union Bank, within 24 hours of opening the fund. The money raised will help increase COVID-19 testing capacity in the country by up to 1,000 additional tests a day, by buying testing instruments and the required biosafety materials such as biosafety cabinets and personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers.

The company also said it is in ongoing discussions with other Nigerian institutions to raise enough funding to expand testing capacity to up to 5,000 tests per day, and is hoping to recruit personnel trained in using qPCR instruments and other molecular diagnostics methodsAll equipment purchased with the donated funds will be installed in public hospitals and laboratories across Nigeria and will remain in situ once the current COVID-19 pandemic subsides, 54gene said.

To date, the NCDC has recorded 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

Enzo Biochem this week announced that its Enzo Clinical Labs subsidiary has expanded its screening services for COVID-19. Enzo is now directly collecting specimens at a drive-through facility by appointment at its laboratory complex in Farmingdale, New York. As one of the first independent drive-through testing facilities on Long Island, it is easily accessible for Nassau and Suffolk County residents, the company said. The goal of this testing site is to help the local community improve virus surveillance and reduce pressure on the regional hospital systems.

Opko Health's BioReference Laboratories announced this week it is collaborating with the cities of Detroit and Miami to offer SARS-CoV-2 testing at drive-through testing locations. The company is also providing testing for drive-through facilities in South Florida, Hialeah, and Hollywood in collaboration with Larkin Community Hospital. Testing will be performed in both states by appointment. BioReference's deals with the cities follow similar deals with the states of New Jersey and New York to provide expanded testing for the virus.

In Brief This Week is a selection of news items that may be of interest to our readers but had not previously appeared on GenomeWeb.