SARS-CoV-2 nanopore sequencing for the first time in Sri Lanka

The genomic sequencing facility of the Allergy Immunology and Cell Biology Unit (AICBU) at the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine in the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, has now added nanopore sequencing technology to their sequencing facility.

This unit has been instrumental in carrying out SARS-CoV-2 sequencing in the country so far, since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Sri Lanka in March 2020.

The addition of the nanopore sequencing technology will enable AICBU to ramp up the capacity of sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 genomes significantly, at this crucial point of the outbreak in Sri Lanka.

Nanopore sequencing is a unique new generation sequencing technology developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd. in the UK to carry out real-time analysis of DNA and RNA.

With this technology, it enables the analysis of anything, by anyone, anywhere as it offers fully scalable platforms from pocket size to population scale. Compared to other sequencing technologies available, nanopore sequencing provides rich data, is fast, accessible, and easy to use, and enables analysis of ultra-long DNA or RNA reads in real time. Importantly, the cost of analysing a sample is significantly cheaper.

Nanopore sequencing technology is being extensively used in more than 80 countries around the world in wide range of applications and it is currently playing a significant role in genomic surveillance of the COVID-19 outbreak in many countries.

With the addition of this technology, apart from the SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequencing activities, the department also will soon be engaging in many other research projects on dengue, human microbiome studies, sequencing of immune cells, and mRNA sequencing.

The nanopore sequencing platform and the reagents that are required to sequence initial 384 Covid samples were very kindly donated to the AICBU by Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd.

Dr. Lakmal Jayasinghe, the Vice President of Research and Development of Nanopores at Oxford Nanopore Technologies was instrumental in this donation. Dr. Jayasinghe who is a graduate of the University of Colombo and obtained his PhD from the University of Oxford in the UK has played a key role in developing this novel nanopore sequencing technology.

Supported by the Customer Services and the Technical Support teams at Oxford Nanopore, Dr. Jayasinghe also ensured that the team at the AIBCU in the Department of immunology and Molecular Medicine received the required training to carry out nanopore sequencing within the shortest time possible.

The University is extremely grateful to Oxford Nanopore and Dr. Jayasinghe for helping Sri Lanka at this crucial time as well as Hela Sarana, a UK based Charity Organization for their kind donation of an additional piece of equipment required to commence the sequencing project. (Colombo Gazette)

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