A recent article in BioSpace highlighted presentations by Twist Bioscience, a rapidly growing genomic and synthetic biology company. Twist presented its product line at the virtual 2020 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG).
Human genomics and genetics are behind the most recent discoveries in medicine, research, and society in general. The ASHG programs allow people to understand their basic genetic composition and appreciate our genetic heritage.
Dr. Emily Leproust, Twist Bioscience’s CEO, commented that the data the company presented at ASHG emphasized the diverse applications of its NGS target technology. The technology may be applied to rare disease research, genomics, cancer detection, and tracking infectious diseases.
Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is a newer process whereby clinicians can test multiple cancer genes at the same time. Technicians are able to analyze tissue from a patient’s tumor that has either been biopsied or removed surgically. NGS has an exceptionally fast turnaround.
A case study was offered during the presentation explaining the design of a Twist Custom Target Capture Panel. The panel can identify hundreds of thousands of biomarkers by NGS. A biomarker is a substance that indicates a specific biological condition.
Identifying Infectious Diseases
A second presentation was billed as a targeted approach for the identification of infectious diseases. SARS-CoV-2 was compared to other viral pathogens (disease-producing agents) causing respiratory diseases. With SARS-CoV-2 in mind, the colder weather invites clinicians to develop tests that can detect multiple pathogens in one test.
Virus symptoms often overlap in rhinoviruses, influenza viruses, and SARS-CoV-2. It is for that reason clinicians must clearly identify the infectious agents causing the pandemic versus the common viruses. It is also important for clinicians to have knowledge of the origin of the viral infection and what causes viral diseases.
Twist responds to the challenge of investigating the biology of a wide range of viruses with its Twist Respiratory Virus Controls using NGS and qPCR (quantitative Polymerase chain reaction). This system is able to identify and distinguish between various infectious agents.
PCR is a precise technique used in the labs to create copies of a DNA segment. PCR can be used to amplify or copy a specific DNA target from a mixture of DNA molecules.
Quantitative PCR (or “real-time” PCR) monitors DNA molecule amplification in real time rather than at the end as is the case with standard PCR.
Twist excels on another front. It uses its Custom Panel formulas (algorithms) to create a huge panel of over 240,000 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), a common form of genetic variation.
SNPs can be considered copying errors similar to a typo. Cells make extra copies by naturally dividing in two. But if there is an error, it will lead to DNA variations or SNPs. These differences may involve a person’s health or physical traits but in most cases, there may be no noticeable difference.
Twist invites the reader to learn about their other products that can be found by visiting their Twist Bioscience website in the “resources” section.