FIND, a global alliance for diagnostics headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, has recently partnered with the Delhi-based Institute of Genomics and Integrated Biology (IGIB). The partners have set up MicroLabs, which will be capable of the sequencing, analysis and interpretation of data with a short turnaround time. The main goal of MicroLabs is to help India improve its genomic sequencing capacity, ultimately leading to better surveillance of Covid-19. Both FIND and IGIB believe that point-of-care genome sequencing will be necessary to track Covid-19, as well as the evolution and variants of the disease.

The availability of such technology can help health authorities to manage the current Covid-19 pandemic and prepare for the future. The ability to track the virus will help better the understanding of the disease, its short and long-term effects, and provide information on how to properly handle both the current pandemic and any future pandemics.

MicroLabs’ development is set to advance a hub-and-spoke model of genomic sequencing through the combination of MegaLabs, a high-throughput sequencing, and MicroLabs, a high-priority sequencing. In addition, MicroLabs intends to take the genome sequencing of pathogens from labs and to the patients. This would allow for the rapid detection of a variant and would prioritise the sequencing of clinically relevant samples.

MicroLabs is an important development and comes at a critical time. With the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, the ability to trace and better understand variants is necessary to expedite the end of the pandemic. A better understanding of genomic sequencing may also prevent future variants while providing more information about the severity of current variants.

MicroLabs can help in tracking and understanding variants, and it could be extremely useful in understanding the genomic mutations underlying breakthrough cases of Covid-19 in those who are vaccinated, which is another necessary step to end the pandemic.