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The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on public health, social and economic life worldwide, has created an urgent and pressing need for the development of therapeutics, vaccines and accurate diagnostic tests to combat the disease.
Biogazelle has been at the front line of the fight against COVID-19 on a national level, through our participation in a Belgian government-led consortium of academia, biotech and pharma aimed at dramatically increasing the testing capacity for SARS-CoV-2 in Belgium. In a record time of 10 days Biogazelle was able to put in place and validate a robust and sensitive RT-qPCR workflow for high-throughput SARS-CoV-2 testing and now serves as one of the 5 official testing centers for the disease in Belgium. To find out more about Biogazelle's role in the public testing effort, please watch the brief video below, produced by the VIB.
Biogazelle’s selection as a partner in this consortium, along the likes of J&J, GSK and UCB, is a recognition of our leadership position in RNA research and RNA biomarker development, our expertise with liquid biopsies as well as our successful track record in carrying through challenging, customized pre-clinical and clinical projects for our clients. Additionally, Biogazelle’s founders Prof Jo Vandesompele and Dr Jan Hellemans are authors of landmark papers in the field of RT-qPCR as well as digital PCR-based RNA quantification, being cited more than 20,000 times.
We have validated both E (envelope) and N (nucleoprotein) gene assays for RT-qPCR. Applying both assays results in 99.99% coverage of known SARS-CoV-2 viral genomes, and also provides increased sensitivity. We have implemented multiple controls in our platform, namely an internal spike-in RNA to test the efficiency of RNA extraction and RT-qPCR of each sample, and 1 positive and negative workflow control per batch of 93 samples. Finally, we have introduced digital PCR as an orthogonal validation method and to calibrate our platform. For more details on our RT-qPCR testing workflow, please watch our webinar.
Additionally we have validated both the E and N gene assays in duplex for digital PCR, which provides absolute quantification of viral genomes and increased precision, particularly on samples with very low viral abundance.
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