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Pacific Biosciences Shares Spike on SARS-CoV-2 Research Initiatives

NEW YORK – Shares of Pacific Biosciences were up around 6 percent in Wednesday afternoon trading on Nasdaq on news that the firm's long-read sequencing technology is enabling multiple research studies on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 host immune response.

PacBio said that the long reads produced by its single-molecular, real-time (SMRT) sequencing technology can be used to resolve variants of the virus that exist within an individual or across a patient population to help develop and maintain diagnostics, vaccines, and medications.

For instance, the firm said it is working with Laboratory Corporation of America to sequence a large number of SARS-CoV-2 genomes from deidentified positive samples. LabCorp scientists will use this information to study virus evolution, mutations found in different geographies, and disease severity and outcomes in order to support more informed patient treatment decisions.

"As we strive to rapidly learn as much as possible about the biology of this novel coronavirus to help deal with the current pandemic and also to look ahead to future outbreaks, SMRT sequencing will give us an accurate, high-resolution view of the pathogen," LabCorp CSO Marcia Eisenberg said in a statement. "This information will be valuable to the work that is already underway on vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, and as we continue to refine our testing and develop new tests."

Pacific Biosciences CSO Jonas Korlach further noted in an email that scientists from both companies will be working together closely on the associated protocols, workflows, and data analysis.

Meanwhile, scientists at the University of California, San Diego are using SMRT sequencing to generate targeted viral genome data and to characterize the microbiome of nasal tissues responding to a COVID-19 infection by shotgun metagenomics.

Rob Knight, director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UCSD, said that the highly accurate "HiFi" reads generated by SMRT sequencing will enable researchers at the institution to "contribute significantly to our knowledge about SARS-CoV- 2 and how it operates in people."

Other research initiatives include a project at Germany's Research Center Borstel, where scientists will sequence SARS-CoV-2 and other lung pathogens collected from routine diagnostic samples to foster genomic diagnostic applications and study the spread and evolution of these pathogens; and a study at the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center of the human B-cell response to the virus in order to identify therapeutics or protective antibodies from patient samples.

"We are proud to support the rapidly expanding group of our customers who are engaged in this essential work and believe that the unique nature of SMRT sequencing will allow them to delve into virus biology and host-response research in a way that directly supports the development of much-needed diagnostic tests, vaccines, and medicines for managing COVID-19," PacBio's Korlach said in a statement.

On late Wednesday afternoon, PacBio shares were trading at $3.03 on the Nasdaq.