In a ceremony held at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj on Monday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal officially opened the Delhi government’s second laboratory to sequence the genomes of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. The ceremony came a day after he officially opened the first such facility, which was located at the Lok Nayak hospital. “I believe that the people of Delhi will reap significant benefits from this facility,” said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. He stated on Twitter that the identification and severity of any new variant of coronavirus can be determined with the assistance of these laboratories. During the pandemic period, Delhiites will reap a slew of benefits from this technological advancement.
Dr. Shiv Kumar Sarin, Director of the International Laboratory for Biotechnology, explained that the ILBS preserves the RNA of positive COVID-19 samples and will be able to sequence them in their entirety, including all 30,000 molecules, with results available in 5-7 days. The Delhi Government has approved the purchase of a NovaSeq machine for the Institute of Biological Sciences (ILBS), which will be capable of sequencing hundreds of samples in a single week. This facility provided by the Delhi government will also aid in the classification of new Coronavirus strains or variants based on genomic data, which will be beneficial for the entire world. CM Kejriwal was accompanied by Health Minister Satyendar Jain and ILBS Director Dr Shiv Kumar Sarin to the ILBS Genome Sequencing Facility to mark the official launch of the facility.
Following his visit, CM Kejriwal addressed the media and stated, “This announcement of the establishment of a genome sequencing laboratory at ILBS for the purpose of identifying and analysing COVID-19 variants is filled with immense pride and happiness on my part. Currently, the lab is being set up, and the first set of results should be available within the next 4-5 days. We just opened a similar laboratory in the LNJP hospital, but this one will be even more advanced than the one we opened yesterday. I have a strong belief that the people of Delhi will greatly benefit from this lab and the services it will provide. Until recently, we were reliant on the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) and other central government centres for this sequencing. Our independence will allow us to identify variants in good time and take the appropriate actions in order to strategize our plans for any subsequent waves, if and when they occur, and to prepare for any future waves.”
Using the facility, researchers will be able to generate cutting edge whole genome sequence data of the SARS CoV2 virus, which will be used for the identification and screening of new strains and variants of the virus that are circulating in and around the Delhi NCR region. This facility has the capability of sequencing nearly all 30,000 molecules of the Coronavirus, and in fact the entire length of the virus itself. We will be able to detect any mutations in any part of the virus, not just the spike protein region, as a result of this procedure. The ILBS facility is equipped with the most up-to-date sequencing machines, known as NextSeq and MiSeq. These facilities are capable of sequencing entire viruses at a rate of 400 sequences per week. The Government of Delhi has approved the purchase of a new machine for the Institute of Biological Sciences (ILBS), the NovaSeq, which will allow it to sequence hundreds of viral sequences every week. These facilities will also aid in the classification of new Coronavirus strains or variants based on genomic data, which will be useful in the future.
CM Kejriwal took to Twitter to further announce the development, writing, ” “In order to make preparations for the future, the Delhi Government has launched the second Genome Sequencing Facility at the Institute of Biological Sciences (ILBS) today. The identification and severity of any new variant of the coronavirus can be determined with the assistance of these laboratories. During the pandemic period, this technology will be of great assistance to the people of New Delhi.”
Dr. Shiv Kumar Sarin, Director of the ILBS Hospital, went into great detail about the procedure and stated, “Following the completion of the RTPCR tests, we preserve the RNA and sequence their virus. We will be able to sequence five of those tests in their entirety, including all 30,000 molecules, if there are 100 people who have been diagnosed as COVID positive. Following the sequencing, we will be able to determine whether the variant is a new or an existing one based on the results of the analysis. It is not that every variant is extremely dangerous; however, we must be well informed about the new cases that are arriving in Delhi and their variants in order to prevent them from spreading. The samples from the previous months total more than 100,000, and we can sequence a portion of them upon request from the Health and Human Services Minister, as well as the Chief Minister of the Province of Ontario. We can sequence more than 300 samples in a week and have their results available within 5 to 7 days of receiving the samples.” Dr. Sarin went on to say that ILBS has some of the most up-to-date instruments, accessories, processing laboratories, and quality control practises in the world, which makes it an excellent place to begin a project of this magnitude. He also stated that ILBS is a member of the national network INSACOG and is responsible for maintaining national standards.
Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs collected from different districts in Delhi will be transported to ILBS, where genome sequencing will be performed in a timely manner, and a report will be sent to IDSP Delhi on a regular basis if RT-PCR results are positive. SARS CoV2 genome sequencing will aid in maintaining a close eye on the circulating viral strain as well as assisting in the timely identification and detection of any new variants in the city. It will also help Delhi prepare for any further wave of Covid – 19 infections in a more effective and efficient manner. It is with this goal in mind that the Delhi Government will begin genome sequencing for SARS CoV2 at the Indian Institute of Biotechnology (ILBS).
It was the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences’ COVID RT-PCR laboratory that was the first ICMR-certified Delhi Government laboratory to begin performing RT-PCR testing in Delhi. At the ILBS, nearly 2.5 lakh samples have been tested for SARS CoV-2 to date, with a positive rate of approximately 13% for the virus.
As the world grapples with one of the most devastating health pandemics in history, causing widespread social and economic disruption around the world, genomic sequencing continues to be the most important tool for understanding how the virus is evolving and how our defences against it must evolve in order to keep up. It is a technology that aids in the deciphering and identification of changing viral strains of common human viruses, which is currently in development. The sequencing of the SARS CoV2 genome will aid in the identification of strains that are more life threatening due to their increased rate of infectivity and severity of clinical outcome, among other characteristics.