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How Zymo Research Is Helping Labs Detect Coronavirus

Zymo Research provides biomedical tools and services to researchers working on coronavirus detection – including support for Opentrons customers.

Zymo Research partnered with Opentrons to create an affordable COVID-19 testing platform. Learn more by reading the press release.

Zymo Research provides biomedical tools and services to researchers. Now, they’re using their considerable resources to help labs working on coronavirus detection. They’ve created a complete COVID-19 detection workflow from sample collection, RNA extraction, to rRT-PCR-based detection that is in pre-Emergency Use Authorization review by the FDA. And, as Opentrons partners who developed a joint testing system, would be happy to provide support for any group interested in onboarding that workflow onto an Opentrons liquid handling robot.

Zymo research specialist Casey Cruz took time out of his busy schedule to talk with Opentrons about how they’re fighting the global pandemic.

Opentrons: What was your normal day-to-day routine before the pandemic?

Casey Cruz: Well, we originally purchased the OT-2 for RNA-Seq library prep, and are still very excited to collaborate with Opentrons on this project once our efforts are no longer needed for COVID-19. We even made a script for rRT-PCR setup with it, and hope to implement it in Pangea Laboratory’s SARA-CoV-2 Laboratory Developed Test (LDT). As the product manager for the RiboFree RNA-Seq kit, I was attracted to the OT-2 because of its price point and Opentrons’ open-source community. I found it worked pretty well for the initial validation, but had to temporarily shift gears to help with the coronavirus detection project.

Opentrons: How is what you’re doing now different from your normal day to day?

Casey: Now, we’re working on submitting an Emergency Use Authorization application for our COVID-19 detection workflow that goes from sample collection to RNA extraction to rRT-PCR detection. The process starts with a transport media, DNA/RNA Shield, to completely inactivate the coronavirus during sample collection and transportation, as it preserves the RNA at room temperature for up to 30 days. It’s a great option to use out in the field since the DNA and RNA from biological samples can be preserved without a cold chain, and once the samples are shipped back to the lab, they are ready for automated sample processing workflows.

Next, we use the Quick-DNA/RNA Viral MagBead Kit for the RNA extraction process, and the Quick-SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR Test Kit to complete the workflow for coronavirus detection.

Quick DNA RNA viral magbead kit graph
Zymo Research data using Quick-DNA/RNA Viral MagBead Kit. CREDIT: Zymo Research

At Pangea Laboratory, a CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited clinical testing laboratory, the LDT starts with samples received in DNA/RNA Shield. Then they use the KingFisher for RNA extraction and the Quick-SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR Test Kit for coronavirus detection.  This workflow uses Zymo Research’s reagents that are currently awaiting EUA approval by the FDA. Getting this system up and running, and doing the validation for the EUA, is the bulk of what the Pangea team is doing right now.

Opentrons: What most excites you about the coronavirus detection project?

Casey: I’m most excited that this is helping people in need during such a critical time. A lot of times when you’re doing research you can feel far removed from the outcome, but this is different. With this COVID-19 detection workflow, our technologies are assisting healthcare professionals and helping to stop the spread of the disease, which will touch so many lives. I’m grateful to have been able to help with something like this that will have a lasting impact on the world and really make a difference.

Opentrons: What’s one key takeaway that you want people to know about how Zymo is helping labs test for COVID-19?

Casey: That we enable safe transportation of clinical samples. DNA/RNA Shield ensures viral inactivation making it safe for people doing the diagnostic testing; all they need to do is decontaminate the outside of the tubes and the samples are safe to work with. We are passionate about making the diagnostic process safer and more accurate—and that starts with sample collection.

If you would like to implement the Opentrons system in your own lab, please contact [email protected].