It’s hard to tell when a virus risks becoming an epidemic – but it’s important for risk management, public health and biosecurity. Most companies working in the area, however, focus on diagnostics rather than pre-emergence surveillance. This project’s goal is to fill that gap.
Current methods for surveillance, especially before a virus emerges as a danger, are neither timely nor efficient, and a better tool is needed. Next-generation DNA sequencing provides genomic data that can offer insight into the origin, diversity and transmission potential of viruses found in animals, such as avian or swine flu, particularly the likelihood of their making the jump into humans. But there are obstacles to this sequencing being adopting into mainstream surveillance, including pathogen enrichment, sample quantity and computational resources.
Fusion Genomics Corp. is working with the University of Toronto’s Dr. Samira Mubareka to further develop its genomic technology, ONETest™ EnviroScreen, which already includes assays for detecting avian influenza, to detect swine flu as well. The result will be a highly sensitive, informative and scalable technology for infectious disease surveillance that harnesses the power of next-generation sequencing. Its ability to provide surveillance in animals before the emergence of an influenza virus will drive a paradigm shift in transmission dynamics, outbreak predictions and vaccine design and production.
The main market for this innovation will be government agencies and institutes charged with pathogen surveillance. Fusion will work with such organizations to validate the technology and bring them on board as early adopters. Further expansion of its use will happen both nationally and internationally. Use of the technology will enable early outbreak warnings and damage-mitigation efforts. It will also reduce losses among poultry and swine producers and support the growth of a Canadian biotech start-up.