Illumina and Helix will implement a testing surveillance infrastructure in the U.S. to track the emergence and prevalence of new strains of SARS-CoV-2, like the novel variant B.1.1.7 that was first found in the U.K.
With support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they will use Illumina's sequencing technology and Helix's COVID-19 testing footprint to expand their surveillance efforts.
Helix has analyzed recent positive samples and identified those with the "S gene dropout" on their diagnostic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, which indicates the potential presence of the B.1.1.7 variant. Illumina has sequenced a subset of these dropout samples using its COVIDSeq test, which identified the variant in four samples from California and Florida.
Their surveillance efforts already have resulted in identifying 51 of the first 54 cases of B.1.1.7 reported in the U.S.