COVID Variants

Coping with emergent SARS-CoV-2 variants: The unprecedented role of bioinformatics

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Recorded: March 30, 2022

SARS-CoV-2 variants display concerning mutations that require close monitoring. Genetic diversity enables the virus to adapt in ways that can impact immunity, from vaccination or recovered infection, and diagnostic testing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented global effort to collect sequencing data from around the world. The availability of millions of SARS-CoV-2 sequences in public databases has allowed the development of robust RT-PCR assays for the detection of SARS-CoV-2, despite its high genetic diversity, and mutation detection RT-PCR based assays for the fast identification of emergent variants.

The critical role and the power of bioinformatics to support clinical and research laboratories will be discussed.

Portrait of Alexandre Gilles
Alexandre Gilles, M.Sc

Bioinformatic Scientist – Assay Development at Siemens Healthineers

Microbiologist by training, Alexandre joined Fast-Track Diagnostics (FTD) in 2015 as R&D scientist. Prior to that, he just finished his master’s in molecular and cellular biology done in Belgium and England. His thesis’ subject was on the intracellular trafficking of Brucella abortus.

During the first years at FTD, Alexandre mainly worked on the development of multiplex RT-PCR assays.

In 2018, he became part of Siemens Healthineers and started reorienting his career towards bioinformatics. He develops and improves the current portfolio of PCR assays. Gilles developed the SARS-CoV-2 assays used in the FTD SARS-COV-2 PCR kit and is responsible for the constant monitoring for new mutations within the assay’s viral genomic regions.

Portrait of Murat Isbilen
Murat İşbilen, M.Sc

Research and Development Manager at A1 Life Sciences

Murat Isbilen is a geneticist with strong expertise in bioinformatics. He completed his B.S. and his masters in Molecular Biology and Genetics Department at Bilkent University, Ankara. He is currently working at A1 Life Sciences as the R&D Manager. He is responsible for the development of RT-qPCR and next-generation assays for diagnostics purposes.  He is also doing his Ph.D. in the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Department at Acibadem University, Istanbul.

In his academic career, he worked in the field of identification of prognostic and diagnostic biomarkers in various cancers and developed new statistical approaches to identify biomarkers from high-throughput data.

He is also competent at bioinformatics analysis of next-generation sequencing data and object-oriented programming. He is also co-founder of Elm Genomics, a biotechnology company that develop NGS-based screening tests.

In his professional life, he worked at Arven Pharmaceuticals as a biotechnology scientist, at PHI Tech Bioinformatics as the R&D Manager and at DNAFect Biotechnology as the technology chief officer and co-founder.

  • Learn about the SARS-CoV-2 genetic diversity and evolution of variants
  • Understand how bioinformatic tools enable the analysis of millions of SARS-CoV-2 sequences to:
    • Assess the inclusivity of RT-PCR diagnostics assay
    • Design robust RT PCR assays for the detection of critical mutations enabling the fast identification of emergent variants

RT-PCR, Next Generation Sequencing

Laboratory Directors, Laboratory Managers, Public health, Researchers, Epidemiologists, Virologists