BillionToOne’s Sanger sequencing test is great tool in US’ arsenal against COVID-19 but may not scale well

Following the announcement of a COVID-19 test using Sanger sequencing developed by BillionToOne, a precision diagnostics company;

Dara Lo, Medical Device Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view:

“BillionToOne’s protocol for a new kind of COVID-19 test takes advantage of a whole different set of instruments, Sanger Sequencers, and chemicals from any existing COVID-19 test currently on the market. The US is in desperate need to increase their testing capacity to effectively fight the pandemic and BillionToOne’s novel COVID-19 test looks like it could help tremendously, at first glance.

“However, the novel protocol that BillionToOne’s Sanger sequencing COVID-19 test uses also puts it at risk for errors in accuracy of test, meaning could produce less accurate results compared with the current COVID-19 PCR tests. In addition, despite the estimated availability of 700-800 Sanger sequencers in the US, which would allow for BillionToOne to unlock over one million COVID-19 tests a day, labs carrying out COVID-19 tests need to be certified for the highest level of safety and containment. Sanger sequencers are currently used for genome sequencing, and not certified to be handling live virus, which means that these sequencing facilities would need engineering changes to meet safety standards.

“PCR-based testing is experiencing a global surge in demand for test reagents, supplies and instruments, which has negatively impacted the supply chain creating a bottleneck for healthcare providers to effectively carry out testing. Because BillionToOne’s Sanger sequencing based test is the first of its kind for current COVID-19 tests on the market, it does not face the same competition as the COVID-19 PCR tests.”

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