Early Detection of Omicron facilitated with Emweb’s Genome Detective

During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, genomic epidemiological surveillance around the world is crucial to monitor the emergence of new variants of interest or concern. Emweb’s Genome Detective is contributing to SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance around the globe with its intuitive bioinformatics platform and genomic database. Genome Detective accurately and quickly assembles viruses to characterize the mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Professor Tulio de Oliveira, the director of the Centre for Epidemic Response & Innovation (CERI) (Stellenbosch, South Africa), started sampling SARS-CoV-2 genomes early in the pandemic for this purpose, and used Genome Detective to discover the Beta and Omicron variants.

Emweb is a Leuven (Belgium) based bioinformatics company offering Genome Detective, founded by two KULeuven alumni Koen Deforche and Wim Dumon. Emweb’s Genome Detective bioinformatics software can be used to analyze and identify viruses in sequenced samples. The utility of sequencing became even more evident in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, as sequencing enabled the unbiased discovery, identification and surveillance of the pathogen causing COVID-19, the creation of SARS-CoV-2 detection tools (PCR tests), and even the start for the development of vaccines.

During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, Professor Tulio de Oliveira analyzed tens of thousands of SARS-CoV-2 samples leading to the detection of the Beta variant of concern (December 2020), and more recently the discovery of the new Omicron variant in South Africa. Professor Tulio de Oliveira recognizes the quality of Genome Detective: “As one looks back on the last 20 months of genomics work on the COVID-19 pandemic, one realizes the crucial need for quick and accurate bioinformatics software. We could not really have done what we did without the support of Genome Detective.”. In addition to the groundbreaking work of professor Tulio de Oliveira in South Africa, many other laboratories throughout the world were enabled in this pandemic to analyze their genomic SARS-CoV-2 data using Genome Detective, by virtue of its ease of use.

Before the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the analysis of viral samples with Genome Detective was already regularly used in South Africa and South America, mainly in the context of HIV, Zika, and Dengue related epidemiological research. The experience in this field and collaborations with many universities over the world shaped Genome Detective into a reliable and well-known bioinformatics pipeline.

Genome Detective will continue to support the genomic surveillance of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and contribute to the creation of bioinformatics applications and databases for infectious diseases in research and diagnostic settings.

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