Genetic research. Computer artwork showing a DNA microarray and Leonardo da Vinci's vitruvian man.

Public health technology provider InductiveHealth Informatics has released a COVID-19 analytic pipeline for its genomic computing platform, designed to enable widely-available testing for the novel coronavirus based on whole genome sequencing (WGS).

InductiveHealth’s platform, developed three years ago, is intended to address gaps in the use of WGS for clinicians and epidemiologists during a disease outbreak.

Laboratories with WGS tools that are interested in performing COVID-19 WGS testing can start using InductiveHealth’s COVID-19 pipeline immediately, the company said, by onboarding the platform here.

InductiveHealth CEO Matthew Dollacker said in a statement that his company aims to respond to an urgent need for broadly-deployed, accurate diagnostic tests for COVID-19 after seeing first-hand the trouble that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had with PCR-based tests for the novel coronavirus.

Last month CDC’s rollout of diagnostic tests to state and local labs was marked in part by red tape—the agency initially would not test a patient who ultimately showed positive for COVID-19 absent a known connection to an infected person—and in large part by a defect in the test.

“We think that maybe one of the reagents wasn’t performing consistently,” acknowledged Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a February 12 telephone briefing with reporters. “We think that the issue at the states can be explained by one reagent that isn’t performing as it should consistently and that’s why we are re-manufacturing that reagent.”

While WGS has advantages that include accuracy and more information on clusters of disease, Dollacker observed, the use of WGS for routine testing has proven to be a challenge for public health labs, due to the significant IT demands of working with the additional data.

“Sometimes it takes a change event for the status quo to shift,” Dollacker said. “We saw the gap and were able to customize our genomic computing platform for COVID-19, allowing these amazing lab tools to be more easily used to combat this grave public health threat.”

Even after an accurate PCR test for COVID-19 is broadly available, Dollacker added, WGS can yet help epidemiologists track and contain the sources of local outbreaks by providing confirmatory testing and additional insights into strains and disease clusters.

InductiveHealth began developing its genomic computing platform three years ago after seeing how CDC deployed WGS to gain better insight into the sources of foodborne disease outbreaks. The technology can accurately identify a novel pathogen, as well as characterize strains and disease clusters, creating a map of how an infection spreads through a population.

Working with public health labs in Washington state and Wyoming, InductiveHealth then developed a similar capability for broader use outside of CDC’s advanced laboratory and computational genomics groups. The result of that work with the company’s platform, designed to respond to infectious disease outbreaks more generally by filling key computational, analytic, and systems integration gaps needed to support the broad use of WGS for outbreak analysis.

Based in Atlanta, InductiveHealth was established in 2013 to deliver public health technology to epidemiologists without forcing them to maintain complex, costly technology. InductiveHealth specializes in SaaS cloud management and support for the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS) Base System, a CDC-developed integrated information system that helps local, state, and territorial public health departments manage reportable disease data and send notifiable disease data to the CDC.

The company says it manages some of the largest information systems in public health for over a dozen clients, delivering more clinical-to-public health integrations than any other firm.

Also of Interest