Lab Matters Spring 2024 | Page 8


Advancing Public Health Through the Integration of NGS and Automation

By Peter C . Iwen , MS , PhD , D ( ABMM ), F ( AAM ), director , Nebraska Public Health Laboratory ; and Justin H . J . Ng , PhD , Scientific Affairs , Clear Labs , Inc .
In the rapidly evolving landscape of healthcare and public health , nextgeneration sequencing ( NGS ) stands as a revolutionary force , enabling profound insights into the intricacies of pathogen evolution and transmission . However , this cutting-edge technology is not without challenges . As the demand for faster and more accurate sequencing rises , so do the obstacles associated with processing times , lack of technical expertise and human errors . Fortunately , the integration of NGS with automation holds the key to overcome these hurdles , to usher in a new era of efficiency and precision to apply genomics in the advancement of public health .
An all-in-one turnkey end-to-end platform not only declutters and frees up precious real estate for essential benchwork ( left ), but also compliments with existing equipment to better serve the needs of public health laboratories ( right ). Photos : Nebraska Public Health Laboratory at the University of Nebraska Medical Center .
One of the primary challenges faced in NGS is the complexity of experimental steps and techniques used . The steps required from sample preparation to sequencing library generation are not only arduous and tedious , but also labor intensive . Traditional manual experimental workflows tend to be timeconsuming and prone to errors , with the risk of sample contamination and crosscontamination posing a constant threat during wet processes . Even with stringent laboratory practices , the introduction of foreign nucleic acid or sample mix-ups can occur , leading to unreliable data and jeopardizing the integrity of clinical results . Automation , with the ability to streamline these complex workflows , offers a solution to efficiently manage complicated procedures , reduce the risk of error and contamination and accelerate the overall process . Automation also allows sample and library preparation to be performed unsupervised , outside of office hours , thereby enabling next-day result-reporting and reducing overall sample-to-results turnaround time .
Standardization of NGS protocols is crucial to ensure consistent and reliable results among different laboratories and research settings . Manual procedures are inherently susceptible to variations introduced by human operators , which lead to inconsistencies in data quality . Automation mitigates this challenge
by enforcing standardized protocols , minimizing variations and enhancing the reproducibility of results . This not only assures data quality control and strengthens the reliability of genomic data , but also facilitates collaboration and comparison of accurate and reliable data between different studies .
Moreover , an all-in-one , turnkey end-to-end platform packed with crucial hardware can replace the multiple different pieces of equipment required for manual NGS workflow . This will not only help optimize use of precious laboratory space , but also enhance workspace safety for laboratorians . A well-organized and clutter-free laboratory environment will improve efficiency and productivity , while at the same time significantly reduce the risk of accidents and promote a safer work environment .
Furthermore , the shortage of skilled personnel with expertise in genomics poses a significant challenge to the widespread adoption of NGS . The integration of automation minimizes the dependency on highly specialized human skills by automating routine tasks , making NGS more accessible to a broader range of researchers and clinicians . This democratization of genomics empowers more professionals to leverage the potential of NGS without requiring extensive training in molecular biology ,
to further lower the barrier of entry for the adoption of NGS technologies in the public health space .
In conclusion , NGS has transformed our understanding of genomics which leads to challenges associated with complex workflows , processing times , standardization and human errors . Automation emerges as a formidable ally to address these challenges by offering solutions that enhance efficiency , accuracy , and accessibility in genomic research and healthcare . By pushing the frontiers of NGS through the integration of automation , the future has been paved where the full potential of genomics can be harnessed for the betterment of public health . g
Clear Labs is an APHL Gold Level Sustaining Member .
6 LAB MATTERS Spring 2024
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