HALO announces genomic sequencing partnership with UCL Genomics and The Francis Crick Institute

HALO, one of the UK’s leading COVID-19 testing firm, will partner with UCL Genomics and The Francis Crick Institute to enable the rapid sequencing of positive COVID-19 test results. The collaboration will enable UK scientists to track and understand the virulence and transmissibility of new COVID-19 Variants of Concern (VOCs) as they emerge, as well as Variants Under Investigation (VUIs), and will play a crucial role in tackling the serious threat new variants pose to Britain’s ‘back to normal’ strategy.

HALO will share anonymised COVID-19 test samples with the Pathogen Genomics Unit within UCL Genomics for sequencing of positive samples for identification of VOCs and VUIs. The Francis Crick Institute will work with HALO to consent subjects for use of samples and data when new mutations and variants of interest are identified by UCL. This world-class collaboration will enable rapid characterisation of potential new variants to help support the public health effort as the volume of international travel increases.

UCL Genomics’ Pathogen Genomics Unit Head Professor Judy Breuer, said:

“Our new partnership with HALO will provide rapid sequencing of viruses testing positive by HALO to identify Variants of Concern and Variants Under Investigation. We are also delighted to be working with HALO and The Francis Crick Institute to facilitate ongoing research into the biological properties of emerging Variants of Concern.”

Sam Barrell, Chief Operating Officer at the Francis Crick Institute, said:

“Rapid identification of new coronavirus variants will be essential to control this pandemic in the long term, which is why collaborations like this are the frontline defence against new waves of infection. We’re working to understand what, if any, threat these variants may pose, by looking at key biological characteristics such as the structure of surface proteins and neutralisation by human antibodies. And we’re ensuring that this information helps shape public health strategies.”

Jonathan Biles, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at HALO said:

“As much as we all want COVID-19 to be behind us, the reality is that we’re going to be living with its impact for years, not months. Tracking, identifying and understanding new variants, particularly those developing in countries without widespread vaccination programmes, is now our first line of defence in protecting ourselves and overcoming the virus.

HALO’s front-line testing of travellers feeds directly into UCL Genomics’ sequencing capability and consequently into a research collaboration between HALO, UCL Genomics and The Francis Crick Institute. HALO’s private sector skillset and resources combined with the world leading scientific knowhow of UCL Genomics and The Francis Crick Institute is a unique and world beating combination.”